Terry Paulson

This is a week for America to give thanks and take a break from politics!

Centuries ago, Roman orator and politician, Cicero, said: "Gratitude is not only the greatest of all virtues, but the parent of all the others."

Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and author of Man's Search for Meaning, realized the power of reflecting on one's blessings. During a predawn march to work on laying railroad tracks, another prisoner wondered out loud about the fate of their wives. The young Frankl thought about his own wife and realized that she was present within him. He wrote: "The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved."

Dennis Prager, talk-show host and author of Happiness Is a Serious Problem, writes: "There is a secret to happiness and it is gratitude. All happy people are grateful, and ungrateful people cannot be happy. We tend to think that it is being unhappy that leads people to complain, but it is truer to say that it is complaining that leads to people becoming unhappy. Become grateful and you will become a much happier person. I try to be happy unless something happens that makes me unhappy, rather than unhappy unless something makes me happy."

In these difficult economic times, there is power in gratitude. In doing a free video series on optimism (www.terrypaulson.com/optimism.html), I realized how gratitude helps sustain a positive attitude. Unrealistic expectations are a sure road to unhappiness and disappointment. Optimists hope for more, but are not thrown by less.

Why? Expressing gratitude keeps one's frustrations and setbacks in perspective. Stressful worry and thankful thoughts are incompatible at the same time.

Dr. Joyce Brothers suggests: "Count up every single thing—large and small—that makes your life worthwhile, including your own innate talents…. When you quantify these things, gratitude—the mighty river to happiness—begins its journey through your soul."

Are you stuck with "Pits People?" They seem to live to complain—“The economy is the pits, the president’s the pits,…in fact, you’re the pits!" After thirty minutes with a "Pits Person," everyone's morale is sagging. Avoid the "Complain Game." In daily conversations, try a more thankful or upbeat response. After returning from Vietnam, former POW Charlie Plumb has a heartfelt response when people ask, “How’s it going?” He says, “I’m living the dream!” He is, and so are we—we’re Americans. So, instead of saying, "I'm stressed out," try replying "I'm blessed out!" Spread a few smiles, and watch attitudes lift.

Terry Paulson

Terry Paulson, PhD is a psychologist, award-winning professional speaker, author of The Optimism Advantage: 50 Simple Truths to Transform Your Attitudes and Actions into Results, and long-time columnist for the Ventura County Star.

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