November is a great time to work on our happiness level, and that of our children and our families - because there is a huge connection between happiness and Thanksgiving.
But it doesn't happen automatically. In order to make the connection work - in order to generate real happiness - we have to turn the noun of Thanksgiving into the verb of Thanks-giving! If we truly and deliberately practice gratitude and proactively give thanks at this season - to God and to those around us - we will find that the result is joy all around.
In fact, Thanks-giving does not just lead to happiness, Thanks-giving IS happiness in its most attainable form!
The great English writer G. K. Chesterton put it this way, "I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."
It seems that everyone is looking for happiness, but few know where to look.
It is one of those things that is hidden in plain sight - something that we know intuitively and yet do not focus on as much as we should. It is the fact that gratitude precipitates joy. In fact, gratitude is a form of joy, and joy is a form of gratitude.
Studies reveal that feelings of gratitude trigger oxytocin, the chemical that makes your brain feel happiness. That is the secret.
Besides being a secret, it is a consistent, reliable, and proportionate mathematical formula. < G = < J (more gratitude equals more joy).
Note that joy and happiness, while related, are not the same thing. An anonymous poet may have said it best:
"Happiness is a thing of here and now,
The bright leaf in the hand, the moment's sun,
The fight accomplished or the summit won.
Happiness is a lifting, buoyant kind of thing,
That lifts the bird more surely on its wing.
When things go well, happiness may start,
But Joy is secret smiling of the heart."
Joy can coexist with sorrow and even with pain. Fear and Joy can bounce off of each other.
Joy is the positive interpretation of all mortal experience, and thus the purpose of life.
The magic of the secret is that gratitude is the most obtainable kind of joy. Because unlike happiness, gratitude can actually be practiced - it is a skill that can be developed and a habit that can be learned. And it not only always attracts joy to its practitioner - it always gives joy to whomever it is directed.
Basic gratitude is a skill we can learn, through concentration and practice - a powerful, transformational skill that can change lives.
If it is learned well enough, practiced long enough, it can become an attitude and an atmosphere with which and in which we live - and live more fully.
Gratitude is an element that, though often hidden, is always present, at least in traces, in every experience, every moment. Finding it, feeling it and giving it is what we can practice.