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Giving Life Meaning

Next Saturday, 28 May 2016, we celebrate Australia’s thirteenth National Day of Thanks.  It is a day we can use to say ‘thank you’ to those around us. I am thankful to say that I have been privileged to be part of this national celebration from its early beginnings. For over almost two decades I have conducted seminars where I asked people to stand up and begin to say thank you to those around them. Then, I would then ask how it felt to be thanked.

The responses were always enlightening and inspiring. Most people said that receiving thanks made them feel good, worthwhile, important, humbled, encouraged and happy, and inspired them to do good in order to keep getting thanks. How positive is that?! One of the saddest responses that kept coming up time and time again, no matter where in the world I asked the question, was that people were surprised when they received thanks. Surprise can be a good thing but it is a sad comment on the thankless world that we live in that people should feel it unusual to be thanked for the things they do for others.

As a child I remember being annoyed at being constantly reminded to ‘mind my manners’ and say ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ all the time. Now I am thankful to my parents that they persevered with me in the process of my ignorant and childish attitude. Now I can honestly say that one of my big goals in life is to be thankful and live with an ‘attitude of gratitude’.

The good news is that I am not alone as there is now an official acknowledgment of the new Science of Gratitude. To quote from Dr Emmon’s website:

Author and researcher Dr. Robert Emmons has discovered what gives life meaning: Gratitude.

Emmons, a University of California, Davis professor, backs up his claim with eight years of intensive research on gratitude in his bestselling book, “Thanks! How The New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier.”

Emmons found that people who view life as a gift and consciously acquire an “attitude of gratitude” will experience multiple advantages.

Gratitude improves emotional and physical health, and it can strengthen relationships and communities. Some strategies include keeping a gratitude journal, learning prayers of gratitude and using visual reminders.

“Without gratitude, life can be lonely, depressing and impoverished,” said Emmons. “Gratitude enriches human life. It elevates, energizes, inspires and transforms. People are moved, opened and humbled through expressions of gratitude.”

Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is tough.

It is, according to Emmons, a “chosen attitude.” We must be willing to recognize and acknowledge that we are the recipients of an unearned benefit.

Emmons’ research indicates that gratitude is not merely a positive emotion; it also improves your health if cultivated. People must give up a “victim mentality” and overcome a sense of entitlement and deservedness.

As a result, he says, they will experience significant improvements in several areas of life including relationships, academics, energy level and even dealing with tragedy and crisis.

The exciting news is that many of Australia’s leaders are getting right behind the national day of thanksgiving. Sir Peter Cosgrove the Governor-General said,

“The National Day of Thanks is a day to take a moment to give thanks for all we have. Each and every one of us – no matter what our circumstances – has something, someone, to be thankful for. So on this day, we appreciate all the good things and good people in our lives.

In 2016 we particularly offer our heartfelt thanks to those who work in the healthcare field – such as nurses, doctors, dentists, and medical researches.  Every day, their dedication, kindness, and sense of humanity touches so many lives. We also think about the quite achievers across our communities, people who donate their time, and energy to help others, expecting nothing in return.  These people are the selfless pillars of our community who contribute so much, in so many ways, and we are grateful for the difference they make.

I also express my thanks to the volunteers who organise the National Day of Thanks, it is your commitment that makes this day possible and such a success. I join with all Australians in giving thanks and appreciating all that is good in our lives.”

Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull MP said:

“A simple and heartfelt expression of gratitude is perhaps the greatest reward for a job well done. More than a social nicety, the gift of a “thanks” let’s someone know they are appreciated and their efforts are not taken for granted. The National Day of Thanks reminds us of the value of this simple gesture… On this special occasion, I encourage all Australians to say ‘thank you’ and to reach out in kindness to all you meet.”

Unfortunately Bill Shorten, Opposition Leader, has not yet given his message for 2016 which in and of itself is sad. Together we hope that he is able to rectify this soon.

Whatever the case with Mr Shorten let us all make an official statement of support even if it is only in our heart, because as a great book once said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Lovework

Develop an attitude of gratitude and use the National Day of Thanksgiving as an opportunity to flex those gratitude muscles for the good of all, especially your family and – make sure you put it into words.

Yours for more of what gives life meaning

Warwick Marsh

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