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The Bar Bulletin
Jax Daily Record Monday, Dec. 10, 201805:30 AM EST

Young Lawyers: Treat yourself to the gift of gratitude this holiday season

It can lead to long-term social, emotional, personal and health benefits.

By Ryan Hyde, Young Lawyers Section Ex-Officio Board Member

By now you’ve probably chowed down the last piece of Halloween candy and polished off the Thanksgiving leftovers.

We are knee deep in the holiday season, folks. There are cards to write, presents to buy, relatives to visit, lines to wait in, parties to attend, decorations to hang, religious events to participate in and gifts to wrap.

Your to-do list is probably longer than Santa’s Naughty List. Couple that with clients to manage, hearings to prepare for, documents to draft, billing to input and loose ends to tie up before the end of the year and the season of joy can spiral into a season of stress.

On top of that, we are living in a time when all topics are polarizing, every issue is divisive and disagreement is a zero-sum game.

It can be overwhelming and make you want to scream “bah humbug!” to it all.  

This is my second attempt at this article. I originally wrote a fascinating piece about the history of Thanksgiving that would have kept you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

I realized after completing it that the article wouldn’t be published until after Turkey Day, so I scrapped it.

I got to thinking, however, that gratitude shouldn’t be confined to the single day set aside for turkey, stuffing, football and pumpkin pie.

What if I told you that simple gestures of gratitude could cure your holiday blues?

The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness or gratefulness. It is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives and a readiness to show appreciation for and to return happiness.

With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives while recognizing that the source of that goodness lies, at least partially, outside themselves.

A byproduct of extending appreciation is a feeling of happiness. Expressing gratitude is one way to lift your spirits during a time of year that, along with Santa, often comes gift-wrapped with stress, melancholy, anxiety or depression. 

Colby Itkowitz authored a great article for The Washington Post several years ago discussing gratitude’s impact on the mind, body and spirit.

She wrote, “On most days, gratitude manifests as an emotional reaction to a favorable event or outcome.

“But it also can be a way of life. People who consciously choose daily to seek out things in their lives to be thankful for are, research has shown, happier and healthier.” 

Studies conducted at the University of Miami, Harvard University and the University of California Davis, back up her statement.

Robert Emmons is a leading researcher in the field of “positive psychology.”

He has found that people who adopt an “attitude of gratitude” as a more permanent state of mind tend to experience health benefits including exercising more regularly, eating a healthier diet, coping better with stress and daily challenges, improved mental alertness and stronger immune systems.

Regularly practicing gratitude also leads to increased self-esteem, decreased feelings of envy and isolation, deeper personal relationships and a more optimistic outlook on life.

A University of Pennsylvania study of gratitude required participants to write and personally deliver a thank you note to someone who was never properly thanked for their kindness.

Those writing the letter immediately exhibited an increase in their baseline happiness score, the benefits of which lasted up to a month.  

Researchers suggest that consistently writing thank you notes, praying, counting your blessings, meditating or keeping a weekly gratitude journal are excellent ways to begin cultivating an attitude of gratitude.

This is the perfect time of year to begin incorporating giving thanks into our daily routine.

Adopting an attitude of gratitude can not only alleviate the stress associated with the most wonderful time of the year, but can lead to long-term social, emotional, personal and health benefits.  

Even if your 2018 book has pages where it hurts to look, and we have all had those years (2013 was a real doozy for me), we all can be thankful for someone or something.

Adopting an “attitude of gratitude” is one way to lift your holiday spirits while also making someone feel appreciated. Hand deliver a thank you note to someone. Call (don’t text) a friend you have not spoken to in a while. Thank a work colleague for assisting you around the office. Say “thank you” to someone in your family who has helped you out in some capacity this year.

When we stop and think of all the goodness in our lives, we realize how much we have.

Why limit thankfulness to the fourth Thursday in November? Give someone the gift of gratitude and turn your holiday frown upside down.

Ryan Hyde is an associate with Thames, Markey & Heekin focusing on business and bankruptcy litigation.

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