Are You Grateful?

Musicians' Assistance Program

Volume CX, No. 11November, 2010

Cindy Green, LCSW

The office of the Musicians’ Assistance Program is your one-stop shop for musicians’ health. We offer counseling – both one-on-one and in groups – as well as information on all kinds of social services, including health insurance, food stamps and more. All services are free to Local 802 members. Contact us at (212) 245-4802, ext. 180 or

It’s getting to be that time of year when our thoughts turn to turkey, pilgrims, the Macy’s parade and the official beginning of the holiday season, including Thanksgiving.

Giving thanks is a wonderful sentiment – one that should be explored regularly, not just once a year.

Gratitude is remarkably fulfilling and useful. Yet how often do you consciously and actively think about everything for which we should be grateful? What would it be like to explore the practice of being thankful as a part of your regular routine?

Experiencing gratitude within ourselves can provide a warm and positive experience. When we express gratitude to another person, we build strength in the relationship and foster a sense of support.

In recent years, psychological studies have begun to look at the value of gratitude.

Robert Emmons at the University of California has studied the use of gratitude in raising levels of happiness and practicing the skill of emotional self regulation. The results were striking.

Physiologically, he found an increase in the hours and quality of sleep per night in people who acknowledged gratitude in their lives.

Emotionally, pleasant states are enhanced, so feeling good can feel even better, enthusiasm and determination increase, and mood improves.

Behaviorally, goals are more likely to be achieved and social connections to others are stronger and more meaningful.

The study also outlines some of the qualities of those who practice gratitude regularly compared to those who do not:

  • Higher positive emotions, satisfaction, optimism and vitality
  • Higher levels of empathy to others
  • More generosity and helpfulness
  • Less emphasis on material goods
  • Less envy

Gratitude is simple to practice. A gratitude journal can be a helpful tool in increasing your level of gratitude awareness.

Think of something you’re grateful for – whether it’s a possession or an experience you’ve had – and write it down in your journal. Start with four times per week and see how you feel in a few weeks.

You can also write a gratitude letter to someone who has had a positive effect on your life.

Better yet, meet them in person and read the letter face to face.

Expressing thanks to someone who has provided something important to you not only leaves you feeling more positive, but it instills a sense of purpose and value in the other person. This is a true win-win situation.

Because it is human to want more – more gigs, more money, more hi-tech gadgets, shoes or living space – practicing gratitude can sometimes be challenging.

These desires become our goals, which aren’t necessarily bad things, but obsessively wanting to acquire more can block out any appreciation for what is already good in our lives.

Even when the bank account is empty and gigs are hard to come by, there is always something – maybe something very small – for which you can be grateful.

Consider your talent, your life experiences that non-musicians will never have, challenges that you face (or have faced) from which you have grown, or the teachers, friends and family that helped shape the person you are.

Creating a sense of gratitude in your life won’t automatically fill your bank account nor will it find you employment.

What it will do is put you in a better position to network, to build rich and rewarding relationships and to live with a sense of peace rather than chaos and confusion.

During this season of Thanksgiving, if you’re having difficulty finding gratitude or raising your level of happiness, please let us know. Contact the MAP office at (212) 397-4802 or Our services are free to members.

Some of the information in this article came from and