A mother and daughter pose for photos in front of the Portuguese word "Gratitude" set up at the Esplanade of Ministries in Brasilia, Brazil, on Dec. 21, 2020. Credit: Eraldo Peres / AP

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I’m not asking for your sympathy, but it’s challenging for a politically oriented columnist who has to produce content right before an election, before we know how it all turned out.

Then again — since there will be close races needing recounts, states with mail-in ballots that won’t be counted for weeks and maybe a ranked-choice tally or runoffs — all analysts’ initial assessments will be based on incomplete results.

So this is a great time for me to do something completely different: focus on gratitude. It’s a good warmup for what my family sometimes does at Thanksgiving — telling each other what we’re grateful for.

Expressing gratitude not only feels good, but researchers have found it’s good for you. Telling others and yourself what you appreciate enhances relationships, improves health and helps people deal with difficult situations.

As an article published by Harvard Medical School explains, “People feel and express gratitude in multiple ways. They can apply it to the past (retrieving positive memories and being thankful for elements of childhood or past blessings), the present (not taking good fortune for granted as it comes), and the future (maintaining a hopeful and optimistic attitude).”

Gratitude can be part of daily life, simply by telling others you appreciate them or something they’ve done. And that doesn’t just apply to one’s friends and family.

One thing I really admire about my parents is how they’ve connected with all sorts of people.

When my dad (of blessed memory) called an office about car insurance or a medical test, he learned and then remembered the receptionist’s name, and would get updates on a family wedding, birth, graduation or illness. And he’d always thank the person heartily for what they did all through the day, booking an appointment or answering a question.

In the old days, when you could wait for people to arrive from a flight at their gate, I’d get off a plane and discover that my mom had made friends with folks around her. Heck, she even did that while waiting in line at the grocery store, amusing and complimenting a balky child squirming in a shopping cart, giving the kid’s parents a little respite and boost. Her habit of gratitude is now applied to beloved visitors and to those giving her personal care in the memory care unit. She always connects personally and says thank you.

And now it turns out that talking to strangers is good for our emotional health — making “us happier, more connected to our communities, mentally sharper, healthier, less lonely, and more trustful and optimistic.”

So I try to remember those lessons, to thank people around me and to count my blessings.

At the top of my gratitude list is a husband who has been with me through good and tough times. He’s been a fabulous partner and father, has a great sense of humor and can both cook a mean fish chowder and use his remodeling and design skills to make money and make our home more usable and beautiful.

I’m grateful for my wonderful children, friends, colleagues, compatriots and more.

I’m grateful for my synagogue, for the singing, studying and praying — and for the sense of purpose, appreciation and community it cultivates.

I’m grateful for a wonderful family-run business, Wilcox Wellness and Fitness, that’s helped me build strength and balance even as I’ve gotten older.

I’m grateful for living in a beautiful state with beaches, mountains and rolling hills. Even on a summer weekend with hordes of tourists in some spots, there are gorgeous, quiet lakes to kayak.  

And I’m grateful that Maine has such a commitment to people voting. We can register to vote through various venues and times, even on Election Day.

To be sure, we shouldn’t ignore difficulties and disappointments near or far. Rather, those should motivate us to work on repairing the world by caring for others and being active citizens. And we should also take some time to appreciate the good and express gratitude.

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Amy Fried, Opinion columnist

Amy Fried has written about the media and politics, women in politics, Maine and American political culture, and political activism, and works to create change through the Rising Tide Center. A political...