Okay, I am excited right now. I am very excited and happy and grateful! Among the obvious reasons are the fact that two of my good friends just got engaged in the past week, my cousin is dating an amazing guy, and my sister recently got yet another outstanding music scholarship. My suite mate and I spring cleaned our apartment, I was able to make a larger tuition payment upfront than I thought I could, five of my other friends and a cousin are knee deep in wedding planning, I spend yesterday afternoon in Julien on a location scout at a gorgeous vineyard, and my roommate just got back from Virginia. On top of that I just spent a sweet half hour putting the two-year-old darling I babysit to bed after an hour of enjoying Disney’s Robin Hood, tomorrow I am going to an early Mass and coffee with a dear friend and then picking more friends up from the airport, and I am half done with my pre-reading assignments for the start of the quarter on Monday. The list could go on.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been having my fair share of insecurities, frustrations, lack of time, and other such pains this week, too. It is appropriate, however, to take this moment to focus on the fact that my heart is overflowing with happiness and jumping with joy. (My friends and siblings can attest to the fact that if I was around them at the moment I would be talking ninety miles per hour and physically dancing around.)
I could choose to dwell on some major frustrations and personal pains, but I simply don’t want to in this snapshot of time. There are so many things to be thankful for. Besides, I notice that the more I give thanks for the blessings, the happier my mood, the easier it is to meet the rest of my battles head on. It’s actually scientifically proven.
The benefits of having an attitude of gratitude include opening the door to more relationships, sleeping better at night, improving physical and psychological health, and increasing self-esteem, empathy and mental health as is put forth by Psychology Today in an article.
A Harvard Health Publications article announced studies by the Universities of California and Miami that show persons who write about things they were grateful for had more optimistic outlooks within ten weeks than a second group that only wrote about irritations.
A second study mentioned by the same publication and conducted at the University of Pennsylvania showed that those who wrote a simple letter of thanks to someone from their early memories who had never been properly thanked witness a high increase in satisfaction.
Books such as Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray also show a pattern of greater well-being and happiness in the relationships of couples who take time to verbally or otherwise communicatively appreciate each other.
“Remember the past with gratitude. Live the present with enthusiasm. Look forward to the future with confidence,” St. John Paul II spoke to us people in modern cultures. The truth is, gratitude breeds enthusiasm which imbues a human person with enough confidence in the goodness of creation to move forward unflinchingly into the future. It’s well worth a bit of extra effort.
These are three things that I find helpful in maintaining the perks of gratitude:
- Say “thank you” to a person for something every day.
Make that magical phrase for something unique and personal to show that you really mean it and put thought into it. Something a little more than merely for food or holding a door open, but don’t forget to give thanks for those unparalleled daily blessings as well.
2. Each week give a written thank you note to a person who particularly reached out to you in the course of the past seven days.
It doesn’t have to be a long note. Simply show them you noticed, appreciated, and cared that they cared for you. It goes a long way toward brightening someone’s day, strengthening their resolve to keep doing those things, and fostering a relationship because you are joyfully appreciative.
3. Each morning when you wake up and each night as you lie down, repeat out loud three things you are thankful for in anticipation of the day and for what happened during the day.
This is an especially important little step because it bookends the day with generous, blessed thoughts. If you are especially ambitious, try taking some of your annoyances or pains from the day, find what you learned from them, and thank God for those lessons.
“The Lord has given this land to us, no need to fuss. He knows what he’s doing. We know that he will take care of us if we will follow him.” –Veggie Tales
Photo Credit: Maria Andress