Saturday, June 30, 2012


"One touch of nature makes the whole world kin."  Shakespeare

            There are lots of reasons for choosing Fort Collins as a place to live.  Whenever we make the top ten lists, outsiders tout our great schools, weather, scenery, growth opportunities, etc. etc. What they can't see so easily from the outside, however, is the fact that there is in Fort Collins a sense of place, a sense of commitment, a sense of gratitude. 

            According to recent psychological research gratitude is a highly important and often overlooked disposition.  In fact, being thankful can improve one's sense of well-being, make us happier, more likely to help other people, and can even help us sleep better and longer.  Mental health, spiritual health, and physical health are all improved by giving thanks. 

            I am reminded of this research as we residents of Fort Collins experience an explosion of emotions as a result of the recent devastating wild fires in the mountains near us and around the state: Shared grief for those hundreds of families who have lost their homes and possessions, sacrifice on the part of fire fighters, crews, mental health workers, and police, many of whom work tirelessly in shifts around the clock and sleep in tents and trailers, far from their own homes and families, generosity from friends and neighbors who have opened their homes and hearts to the newly homeless. 

            The other emotion that gets expressed, however, is gratitude.  When the High Park fire subsides and is finally extinguished, thousands of firefighters and volunteers, sweaty and exhausted, will head for home and to a well deserved rest before they are called to duty once again perhaps in another location.  But as they drive through Fort Collins on their way home, they will not miss the city's sense of appreciation.  The pictures below tell the story. 

            For anyone interested in the psychological research on gratitude, Professor Robert Emmons (UC-Davis) and his colleagues have compiled the following list of research articles:

            And in case you want to measure your own sense of gratitude and compare your score to data from national samples, try out this six item questionnaire:   

            Some of Professor Emmons' recent books on this topic include:

The Psychology of Gratitude (Oxford University Press), Words of Gratitude (Templeton Foundation Press) and THANKS!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Houghton-Mifflin).

            Now I'm hoping the researchers will look not only at individual scores on gratitude but also develop scores for whole communities.  If they do, I think Fort Collins will be at the top of the curve.