Practicing Gratitude

It’s no big secret that I am a nerd. To solidify my nerd status,  I enrolled in an enrichment class last fall called “The Nature of Happiness”. We discussed different philosophers, how they proposed reaching happiness, along with some psychologists theories as well. As part of the class, we took a test to find out our “vital strengths”. Taking the test, I found that my #1 strength, the quality that I was most inclined to share with the world, was gratitude. I was delighted when I arrived at class and our teacher said that it has been scientifically proven to be the strength that leads to the most happiness, and in some cases, longer life spans. 

 It’s so easy to fall into negative thoughts about what we are missing out on, people we miss, time we have lost, especially during an unprecedented pandemic. Thinking about these things often leads me to frustration, anger and sadness. Negative thought processes promote a “woe is me” attitude, and encourages me to seek pity from others for what I’m going through. 

When I get bogged down in these thought patterns, or when people around me do, I do my best to self correct or steer the conversation in a different direction. The most helpful tactic to do so for me has been shifting towards gratitude. Even if it is an awkward transition, or if it seems silly, encourage yourself or others to talk about something they are grateful for. Almost immediately, the mood of the conversation will shift, and I oftentimes find myself smiling at my own gratitude and hearing that of others. 

Focusing on gratitude can be used in a work setting as well. Every week for my team meeting at work, I ask my team to share something they have been grateful for this week. Although we haven’t been doing that on each team meeting during this COVID time (our meetings have turned from weekly to daily, much to my distress), my coworkers missed it and asked if we could start sharing again. Although my coworkers rolled their eyes when I asked that we share gratitude towards the beginning of our time working together, it became something fruitful and bonding for us all. 

To promote gratitude in your personal life, consider keeping a gratitude journal. Each day, write down something that went well, or something that you are thankful for. Your contribution to your journal doesn’t have to be major- for me, I’m oftentimes thankful for the simple fact that I woke up on time to sign on to work. After about 30 days, note how your mood has shifted from day to day. Even this tiny act of writing down good moments from each day can reset your frame of mind toward positivity. 

Finally, don’t be afraid to verbalize your gratitude. When you are thankful for someone in your life, tell them. If your significant other does something kind for you, tell them how much it means to you. The more gratitude you give, the more you receive. Gratitude is a practice- it takes time to get into and it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Take it at your own pace but challenge yourself to be more grateful to those around you. 

This week, I’m extremely grateful for my network of friends, who have constantly lifted me up and sent me the kindest affirmations and love. Also, I am grateful for the lovely weather, and having the ability to be outside to exercise, work and relax. Every single day, I am thankful for the gift of life, and for every person that I get to share this life with. I challenge whoever is reading this to think about what they are most grateful for today; and if you are grateful for someone or something they have done, tell them!

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