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Gratitude is good for us, so much so that November is National Gratitude Month in the U.S. And this week brings Thanksgiving celebrations. For those of us who opted to show our gratitude to others by staying at home with less family around than usual, it’s a good time to reflect on what and whom we value.

With the many disruptions and disappointments to cope with during a pandemic, it is more important than ever to refocus on the ways we are fortunate, to consciously ask our inner GPS to guide us to an oasis found on all our personal maps, the latitude of gratitude.  Why?

Gratitude’s refreshing

Focusing on what we are grateful for, on what we appreciate, reframes and refreshes our attention to remember the beautiful, the good, the bountiful, the possible, and the extraordinary that we often overlook. The more we practice shifting to that latitude, the more available it becomes.

It’s valuable

Neuroscientists have explored the human tendency toward a ‘negativity bias’, where because our brains prioritize survival, we tend to first perceive the potentially harmful, searching surroundings for what might go wrong, whether that be physical, emotional or existential threat. We’re very practiced at survival scanning, but it provides only a partial view of the terrain. 

Focusing on gratitude isn’t pasting a ‘smiley face’ over a bad situation or a genuinely difficult circumstance.  It invites a fuller, clearer picture of our daily realities.

It connects

If you can feel gratitude, it will immediately lift you into awareness of your connection to all there is and to yourself. The negativity bias is so powerful that we have to overcompensate in the other direction. As Dr. Barbara Fredrickson said of her work on positive emotions, “The negative screams at you, but the positive only whispers.”  We need a magnifying glass to scan for the good and earphones to amplify the whispering.

Looking and listening

I’ve been doing the exercise, outlined below, every day for months; it helps me fall back into love with my life and world when I’ve fallen out. It can transport me to the latitude of gratitude.

Find the best time of day to send yourself some loving thoughts. You might try it at night to close your day and enhance sleep. I’m mostly too tired at night, so I began bringing gratitude to mind in the morning, after placing a cup of chai tea in my hands. 

To get started, choose any or all of the prompts below. Devote just three minutes per question and note what shows up. I like journaling my responses in a small spiral notebook, still loving those clean, crisp pages from school days.

Reflect on the past twenty-four hours:

  • What: What am I grateful for [events, occurrences, outcomes, surprises, miracles]?
  • Who: Who am I grateful for and to [your partners, neighbors, ancestors, your dog or cat, trees sheltering your property, worms processing your compost bin]?
  • Self: How am I grateful to myself [usually the toughest question]?
  • Show: How might I show my gratitude?

Ticket to ride

You can take yourself to the latitude of gratitude any time, in any situation. Gratitude conducts us unfailingly and unflinchingly to the latitude of Love, which is, by all accounts of those who know about these things, the mover and shaker of the universe. It’s a great address. 

All of us at Continuum are grateful for our connections with you! We wish you and your families a very happy season of gratitude.

Sallie Lee is a consultant with Continuum. She has served as a thinking partner, facilitator, coach, and strategist for a global client base.