As Thanksgiving approaches, we all begin to reflect on the many blessings in our lives. This year I am particularly grateful for all the grass I have had to mow in my life. This past summer, it seemed like I had to mow my lawn every other day just to keep up. Sometimes it was easy for me to forget to be grateful for mowing grass.
When I forget, I try and remember a line from Thorton Wilder’s play, “Our Town,” when the stage manager remarks, “Only one man in ten realizes it’s a privilege to mow his own grass.” That line always reminds me to be grateful I have a lawn to mow. I have the strength to mow it. I own a lawnmower and a house with a lawn. I am alive and well on a fine summer day and soon the yard will be filled with the wonderful smell of freshly cut grass. When look at it that way, the task of mowing my grass is no longer a chore to be done, it is a privilege for which I can thank God.
But it’s easy to forget to be grateful. Even when I was asked to write an article on gratitude, my first thought was, “Sorry, I am too busy right now.” The last thing I wanted was another task and deadline to go with it. But the moment I began thinking about gratitude I was reminded of the privilege of having to mow all that grass.
All the research found in mental health journals suggests that our feelings of gratitude not only improve our mental and emotional well-being but are positively linked to our physical health as well. “In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole…compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).
Dr. Joel Wong and Dr. Joshua Brown, two mental health researchers from Indiana University, discovered that the practice of writing “gratitude letters” physically changes the way our brain processes information. Their studies conclude that people who “consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed.” One of the simplest and most effective things we can do for improving our lives is to cultivate feelings of gratitude for all the blessings we have received.
As Steve Maraboli wrote, “If you want to find happiness, find gratitude.” Today, I will write down how grateful I am for all the grass God has given me to mow this last year. As we approach this holiday season, I am really praying it works equally well when it comes to shoveling snow.
By Chris Klippen, MA, JD, Therapist/Counselor