Welcome back to another week and another post on the blog! Today I am excited to write about the importance of expressing gratitude, how it can make you happier, strengthen your relationships, and how I’m planning on incorporating it into my life in the coming year.
Lessons on Giving Thanks
When I was in grade seven I had an incredible teacher named Mrs. Fleisig. She was my English teacher, but she was much more than that. She’s one of those teachers that really shaped my life, enough that she’s still inspiring and impacting me 10 years after I was in her class.
In the fall, around thanksgiving, she asked our class to think about somebody we were grateful for. She asked us to write down why we were thankful for that person and to think deeply about what they had done in our lives to impact us and what qualities they possessed that we admired.
Then she asked us to write them a thank you letter outlining all of that, to share how we appreciated them and express gratitude for their influence in our lives. The assignment was then to deliver or mail our letters.
I had so much fun with it I think I actually did three. I can still remember the reaction of friends when they got them because it was so unexpected and that’s when I got hooked on thank you notes.
Gratitude & Attitude
It’s fantastic how simple it is to let someone know that you value them and are thankful for them, and the positive impact they have had on you. And how great does it feel to be on the receiving end of that kind of gratitude? Telling people how much they mean to you not only makes you feel more postive and thankful but it also reinforces relationships because you’re telling people you value them.
An article called Giving thanks can make you happier, published by Harvard Health Publications at Harvard Medical School suggested that “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships”.
The article also suggested that writing thank-you notes, thanking someone mentally when you can’t send them a note, keeping a gratitude journal, counting your blessings, prayer, and meditation are a few ways that people could cultivate gratitude in their daily lives.
A media production group called SoulPancake makes inspirational videos. One of my favourites is An Experiment in Gratitude | The Science of Happiness which uses the research from the Giving thanks can make you happier article and turns it into a visual experience. Their video shows an experiment with a similar activity as my school assignment but rather than mailing the letters the person calls the person they wrote the letter to and read it to them. If you have seven spare minutes in your day and are in need of a smile I would highly recommend checking it out!
Taking Stock of What You’re Grateful For
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, and to lose perspective on life sometimes, but one of my favourite ways to gain a better perspective or to manage feeling stressed is to think about all the good things in my life.
There is a blog post I love called On Thanksgiving: What I Feel vs What I Know. It’s a poem that has stretched my perspective on the knowledge of goodness in your life when you feel like you’ve got nothing going for you. It reminds me that no matter what I’m feeling, and especially when I’m feeling down, to take stock of the goodness in my life. My favourite lines are:
So do not despair.
For there is more than what we feel.
There are things missing in every single room.
But there is even more not missing.
So don’t be blinded by the ghosts.
Don’t let them glow brighter than your friends.
Don’t let them glow brighter than your family.
Fight to be present.
Even when we feel sad and overwhelmed, our lives are full of goodness. Being intentional about remembering that is very important and has a big impact on our general happiness.
Earlier this summer I bought a ring at a little beach shop near my cottage with 10 little cut out hearts in it. If I’m having a particularly hard day, or even just having a moment of feeling overwhelmed I try to stop myself and before I get lost in the stress of it all I fiddle with the ring and think of 10 good things.
Stopping yourself from focusing on the negative and affirming that the good things in your day, week, or life outweigh the negative can have a huge impact on your perspective and help you to better manage frustrating situations from a place of love and grace.
If you’ve made it this far into the post you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I’m a big fan expressing gratitude. I like making room in my bullet journal (or any type of planner or notebook) to make daily lists of all the people, things or events I can think of that made me happy that day.
I think showing gratitude through thank you notes is a wonderful way to encourage others and make yourself feel good by taking on a perspective of thankfulness SO with this post I’m going to kick off something I’m calling The Gratitude Project. For the next year I’m going to write a thank you note every day.
Making lists of things and people you’re thankful for is all good but I want to go one step further. The thank you note project will encourage mindfulness of what I am thankful for while also showing gratitude to people who brighten up my life and letting them know how much I value them and the little and big things they do to contribute to my life.
They might range from notes to cards to emails to phone calls, but from now until August 2nd 2018 I am planning to make a point of saying thank you to someone everyday. That is a lot of thank you notes, but I’m confident I’m not going to run out of people or things to be thankful for.
And this is YOUR invitation to join the party! Do you have:
- A favourite prof who had an incredibly positive impact on you?
- A family member who you can always count on for support?
- A coworker who embodies teamwork and is always willing to help you out?
- A friend who recently got you a spontaneous gift?
- A parent who lets you borrow their car on a very regular basis?
- An elementary school teacher who you still tell stories about because they were great?
- A friend who is a major source of encouragement in your life?
- A neighbour who helps you out with shoveling snow or mowing the lawn?
If you said yes to any of those, or if you didn’t but you have someone else in mind who you’re thankful for, try writing one thank you card to that person.
Here is to 365 days of saying thank you!