Families across Fort Campbell and the nation will soon share a Thanksgiving Day unlike any other, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
Although we may not be together on the holiday, we can still connect and reflect on what we are grateful for. Expressing gratitude and thankfulness has many positive benefits.
“Gratitude is a positive emotion,” said Brian Hite, master resilience trainer and performance expert for the Fort Campbell Ready and Resilient Program, or R2. “Gratitude is something we feel when we believe somebody has done something nice for us … That’s important because our tendency in that situation is to give back.”
Although travel restrictions mean less face-to-face time this year, gratitude and feeling thankful doesn’t require a big meal or a large group, they can be expressed anytime.
Hite said when parents pick their children up from school, they might ask how their day went and get little response.
“Change the focus of the conversation completely with just a few words,” he said. “Instead, ask them to tell about the good stuff going on in their life right now.”
Focusing on gratitude builds resiliency and makes people more aware of what in their lives is going right, instead of what’s wrong, he said.
“Nothing is going to change unless you decide to change it, so just that deliberate effort needs to be made to ask yourself what is going well right now,” Hite said. “Pour your own attention in there and do your own exploration.”
Focusing on gratitude can help build social resources by connecting with other people, he said.
“That’s an extremely important resource to have when you start talking about resilience and being able to endure challenging situations and overcome those, and, hopefully, come out better once those things are over,” Hite said. “It’s our decision to choose to focus on things that might evoke that emotion of gratitude, or not, and you can do it in a group of 30 people or you can do it by yourself.”
Not only are social connections strengthened but social institutions can be developed and strengthened because gratitude inspires giving back, Hite said.
“Positive emotions help us broaden our awareness of what’s going on around us, so when we experience gratitude, we become more aware of what in our lives is going well,” he said.
Thanksgiving can be a good time to focus on things that make us grateful, but it should not be the only time.
Hite suggests keeping track of what makes us grateful each day. Those experiences can be captured in a journal, shared with Family and friends, or something to quietly but consciously reflected on alone.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be a writing down thing, but it does need to be an exploration thing, so it’s not just they had pizza in the cafeteria or there was no traffic on the way home,” Hite said. “It’s not a list but thinking about what the good thing was. Why did it make me happy?”
That gratitude can be spread when shared with others or by asking them what they are grateful for and why, which can lead to deeper conversations. Even if talking to a pessimistic Family member, changing the questions you ask can lead to a more positive conversation. Simply asking him or her how things are going might start a list of complaints but asking him or her what is going well can change the tone.
“When we think about things that are going right in our lives, as opposed to the things that aren’t, we experience more positive emotions, which leads to more of that social interaction, that broadening of awareness and the building of resources,” Hite said.