On Gratitude, and Happy Thanksgivings

Reflect on your present blessings, on which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.

There do appear to exist benefits to regularly focusing on one’s blessings. The advantages are most pronounced when compared with a focus on hassles or complaints…

The first quote is from Charles Dickens, and reflects a common sentiment.  The second is from a scientific study, Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life (J. Personality and Soc. Psychology) by Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough, which actually proves that the popular sentiment is empirically true.

I saw this paper highlighted at Marginal Revolution (an interesting libertarian economics blog), and it dovetailed with some things I’ve been thinking about recently. The referenced study (full version here) demonstrates that regularly focusing on, and writing down, things we’re grateful for leads to positive affect (expressed emotion), and focusing on burdens and hassles leads to negative affect. Reflecting on your blessings makes you lead a happier life, and vice versa.

Those of us working in the animation industry are usually doing something we love, and are surrounded by talented people who also love it.  And yet, somehow, we often baste in snark, jealousy, and resentment.  It’s easy to fall into step with people who, talented as they are, exude entitlement and arrogance.  We’re in our dream jobs, and yet we’re often miserable.

Negative and ungenerous attitudes are contagious.  We sit at a fine bar and look at the glasses set before us, full of delicious drinks, and we moan that they’re only half full.  Grievance collecting becomes a toxic habit.  But there is a solution.  Consciously focus on the positive.  Don’t do this casually, but do as the subjects did in the study above — reflect on it and write it down on a regular basis.  Regularly writing down both your specific goals and what you’re grateful for will probably do more for your careen than regularly sketching in a sketchbook.  But hey, those things aren’t incompatible! Keep a Gratitudes-and-Goals journal and a sketchbook! (I suggest keeping them separate because most people like to share their sketchbooks, but a Gratitudes-and-Goals book would be far more personal).

Count your blessings, leave the negative behind, and make every day of the year a happy Thanksgiving!

One Response to “On Gratitude, and Happy Thanksgivings”

  1. Simon Bean Says:

    What a great post, thanks for this Kevin. This definitely brightened up my day :)

Leave a Reply

The animation and animation-related musings of Kevin Koch