“If you have forgotten the language of gratitude, you will never be on speaking terms with happiness.” – C. Neil Strait.
Last night, as I was walking alongside my six-year-old daughter as she was trick-or-treating, I found myself repeatedly reminding her to say “thank you” after receiving the candy that was being tossed into her bag by neighbors and friends. She, in turn, reminded me that she didn’t need reminding to say “thank you,” as that habit was already ingrained from years of incessant needling by Mom and Dad (and all the other well-meaning adults in her life). Point taken.
In truth, my daughter is a very polite kid who generally remembers to say “please” and “thank you” without prompting. After all, in the South, good manners aren’t just appreciated but expected. But did you know that expressing gratitude – sincere, heartfelt thanks for what you have or have been given – isn’t just good manners or a kindness that you bestow upon others? Scientists have discovered that feelings of gratitude literally change the molecular structure of your brain and increase your own overall wellbeing.
Simply put, being thankful isn’t just polite, it’s good for you too. Research shows that gratitude is consistently and strongly associated with stronger immune systems, better health, greater happiness and higher overall wellbeing. People who routinely express gratitude experience more positive emotions, sleep better, have stronger relationships and are better able to handle the deleterious effects of stress, anxiety and depression. And these moments of lift (to borrow a phrase from Melinda Gates) aren’t just fleeting that-felt-nice-but-now-the-feeling-is-gone booster shots; expressions of gratitude have durable salutary impact that can leave you feeling better days, weeks and even months later.
So let’s not wait until the fourth Thursday of November to give thanks. Remember what your mom, dad, grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle, older sister, third-cousin twice removed, cashier at the grocery store, Sunday School teacher and other well-meaning grown-ups all told you when you were little . . . “Say thank-you.”
November is National Gratitude Month in the United States, and those of us at Latitude are recognizing the occasion by giving thanks online. For the next thirty days, we will be highlighting our gratitude for the people, experiences and things that bring joy, hope, love and meaning into our lives as legal professionals, family members and friends. We would love for you to join us by posting your own pictures on our social media channels or use the hashtags #LatitudeGratitude and #NationalGratitudeMonth. Let’s cultivate a habit of being truly grateful, not just polite . . . though in this day and age, polite would be great too.
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