|Posted on February 19, 2010 at 6:15 AM|
Subject: Gratefulness and thankfulness Take: We need to be more thankful - for our daily experiences as well as for our many blessings. Take 2: Culturally, levels of thankfulness appear to vary. I discuss some possible tendencies. What better way to enjoy the umpteenth snowstorm of our very snowy winter here in Norway than to focus on all that we are grateful for. And what better way to do that than to write about it, hoping others will hear the distant cabin mountain horn's sweet warbling call and enjoy the music. I was reminded of this topic after listening to 'Judge Judy' speaking with Larry King on CNN the other day. She observed wryly that we human beings simply are not so nice to one another a great deal of the time. Judge Judy, for those of you unfamiliar with her, has been a judge on U.S. television, hearing real cases, for many years, and continues to do so. Her take-responsibility approach and take-no-prisoners attitude have helped many minor miscreants face their personal and related legal demons. Recent research into this topical area suggests that we are more likely to be healthier if we take the time to appreciate what we have, as well as to appreciate something in our everyday lives - um - every day. Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis recently found that people who focused on gratitude were simply happier, reported fewer negative physical ailments, exercised more and had more energy. They were also less materialistic and more generous. Other studies have found consciously grateful people to have: more clear thinking, better immune system responses, lower stress levels and longer lives. A small treat appears to help also. A Cornell University study found that doctors given a small 'token' candy were better able to process complex information quickly, were more considerate of diagnostic complexity and less likely to jump to wrong conclusions. Persons with a high gratefulness quotient exercised it as a discipline. They consciously considered their thanks for specific experiences, views, etcetera. Suggested ways to reinforce such behavior in our own lives include: recordation, passing on such thoughts (called the 'boomerang' effect), and reaching out to others. With reference to that last item, might we note the existing English word, eudaemonia? My goodness, it almost looks Norwegian, with that ? type of feeling. The word, eudaemonia, means the happiness or fulfillment that comes from an action itself, not as a result of the action. I personally think of this as related to RAK. That is, random acts of kindness. RAK is responsible for the happiness experienced by many people. What is the cultural barometer on RAK? I'm not sure. It would be interesting to compare Hofstede's cultural dimensions in business to RAK. For example, business cultures that are more universalistic, such as that in the U.S., rely on contracts and rules that all are expected to respect and observe. Doesn't sound very RAK-ish, does it? At the other end of the scale, business cultures that value handling issues on a very specific or particularist manner would likely be involved in RAK activities only for those who are valued as more special in that culture - for example, men in Middle Eastern cultures, or the elderly in Asian cultures. Business cultures that value individualism also value individual achievement, separate from group-related values and activities. The U.S. takes the prize for the world's most individualistic business culture. Again, not a RAK-ish feeling here, I don't think, unless of course we take our personal ethics and moral duties with us when we walk around in America being big individuals. On the other hand, the Chinese business culture, which values collective enterprise to a great degree, prioritizes elements of caring for others above one's sense of individual self. Not a bad value to try to incorporate in one's daily life, and definitely RAK-ish. My own experience of China resulted in my falling in love with the people as a whole, and made me want to embrace their individual and collective hopes and dreams. Most Chinese were very friendly, very personable, caring and interested, willing to go out of their way to make our welcome complete in almost every way imaginable, and just because that is what is of value to do - for others. Not just for yen, but for the yin and yang of it. Well, now it is time to trudge to the little grocery with Tinkerbell, the resident Shetland sheepdog. The wind is bracing, it is minus 9 celsius, and there are at least several inches of new snow on top of the old ice-and-snow package. Everything is white or shades of gray. Dull, insistent, unforgiving. Perhaps it is time to buy some small token treats to carry around. And, by God, I'm so thankful for it all, every bit of it.