Mind / Body / Spirit

Back to the Basics with Dr. Robyn McKay – Say 'Thanks'

In the classic seasonal comedy, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, the only thing that Neal Page (Steve Martin) wants to do is get home to Chicago in time for Thanksgiving. Then he meets Del Griffith (played by the late John Candy), and Neal’s plans go dramatically awry. From a detour through Wichita, a seedy motel room (“those aren’t pillows!”), and an unforgettable moment at the car rental counter, Neal is anything but grateful. In the end friendship and warmth win out, when Neal invites Del to Thanksgiving dinner with the family.

Gratitude and giving are two themes that are front and center this time of year, putting gratitude into practice can be tough — particularly when you’re traveling.

At times, it’s more than difficult to be thankful when you’re simultaneously enduring long lines, flight delays, and other travel-related stressors. Even though you can’t control your situation, you can (and should) manage what you’re thinking. Research in positive psychology has shown that gratitude actually changes how you feel for the better. It turns out that gratitude protects against negative emotions such as bitterness, greed, and resentment. Not only that, grateful people tend to experience more joy, happiness, love and other positive emotions.

Flying Lesson: Here are some tips that will keep you flying strong and sure this season in spite of travel-related mishaps.
Decide. When you make a commitment to practicing gratitude, your attitude changes. You start to see things differently.
Suffering is optional. Rather than focusing on the long security line, why not grab your mp3 player, pop in your earbuds, and distract yourself with an audio book or favorite musical artist? Just because you have to wait doesn’t mean that you also have to suffer.

Watch your language. Statements like “I have so much to be grateful for” are more uplifting than negative words. Bring thankful words such as “blessings” into your everyday life.

Keep a gratitude journal. Admittedly, the gratitude journal had become a standard recommendation in the advice columns. But you don’t have to write in it every day. The optimal “dosage” for gratitude journals is twice per week. Write in it any more than that, and you’ll get bored. Choose two days a week, say Tuesday and Saturday, pull out your journal and write down three to five things that you’re grateful for. And by the way, find everyday things to be grateful for. Most everyone is grateful for family, friends, health, and wealth. Try for something simple that might be otherwise overlooked, like a friendly barista or an unexpected upgrade to first class.

Finally, say thanks more often. And really mean it.


Dr. Robyn McKay is a positive psychologist and a coach for creative and talented people. She lives in Tempe, AZ. Visit her website at www.robynmckay.com

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