Very soon, it will be Thanksgiving. Reflecting on this, I decided to do some research and came upon an article printed last year in the Huffington Post about giving thanks. The article by Seth Borenstein of the Associated Press, entitled, “Why Giving Thanks Is Good for the Psyche” discusses the neuroscience behind counting your blessings. ( Borenstein ) As is obvious, gratitude is a positive emotion. But, not so obvious, it is a very powerful emotion that when displayed, “… makes you happier and can change your attitude about life, like an emotional reset button.” Or, as University of Miami psychology professor Michael McCullough noted, “When you are stopping and counting your blessings, you are sort of hijacking your emotional system.” (Id.)

Professor McCullough noted that gratitude works because it connects us with others. It also changes our attitudes and outlook on life so that we “…feel more alert, alive, interested, enthusiastic…

[and]…connected to others.” (Id.)

Another psychology professor, Robert Emmons at the University of California at Davis points out that counting your blessings “…serves as a stress buffer…. Grateful people are less likely to experience envy, anger, resentment, regret and other unpleasant states that produce stress.” (Id.) Indeed, he conducted a study and noticed that those who consistently counted their blessings scored higher in happiness tests with some showing improvement in sleeping and exercising. (Id.)

My mediator colleagues and trainers have sometimes noted that during a mediation they might ask each party “What are you grateful for?” or “What good things have happened to you today?” I now fully understand why: I am dealing with parties in conflict with much stress and by asking them these simple questions and having them respond, I can cause their emotional systems to be hijacked – “out of a funk into a good place.” (Id.). I can help soften -if not ameliorate- their anger, resentment and stress. I can, essentially, get them into a “good place” and amenable to settling a lawsuit.

The article concludes by noting that Professor Emmons “…actually encourage people to “think of your worst moments, your sorrows, your losses, and your sadness and then remember that here you are, able to remember them. You got through the worst day of your life… remember the bad things, then look to see where you are.” (Id.). In short, remember that the world is NOT always a horrible place; lots of good things happen, to every one of us.

On this Thanksgiving, I have a lot of blessings to count; each of you. You read and comment on my blogs and more importantly, you use me for your mediations to help you settle your disputes. When I do settle them, you allow me to have the greatest feeling in the world: that I have done some good in the world today by helping someone resolve a conflict that was weighing heavily on them. (So, many times I have seen the wave of relief wash across parties’ faces when I tell them the matter is settled.) So, thank you from the very bottom of my heart.
Without you, I would never have been able to quit the practice of law ( aka my “day job”) and engage in what I love to do every minute of every day!

Happy Thanksgiving!

… Just something to think about!

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