I read a blog post by Dan Rockwell this morning that changed everything.
This post explained that gratitude is not a feeling – it is a behavior. I had never thought about it that way. Yes, a person can feel thankful, grateful, and thoughtful toward others. Yet if these thoughts are never expressed outwardly by behavior they mean nothing. Behavior that demonstrate grateful thoughts provides evidence of those feelings. Without action there might as well be no feelings.
When I teach a University level course, I ask my students to write academic papers in which they support everything they write about with credible research sources. Behaving as if I am grateful is just like supporting my thoughts and feelings with credible sources. If I think to myself “wow, I am so glad I had an incredibly enlightening conversation with my friend last week,” then never behave in any way that gives evidence to my feelings – it is as if the grateful feelings never existed. However, if I send a quick thank you email, note, or give a phone call to my friend to let her know how incredibly helpful her thoughts and opinions were – then the gratitude has evidence, and both my friend and I are honored through those behaviors.
Sometimes I get so busy I forget or neglect to show evidence of my gratitude. To remedy that I am setting a goal right now to schedule time each day to not only reflect upon each thing I am feeling thankful for, but also to act on those feelings and support them with evidence. This transforms feelings into true behaviors of gratitude.