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The Importance of Gratitude

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By: Caroline Griffith ’21 elementary education

It’s Thanksgiving 2014. My brothers and I are just beginning to dig in to our mashed potatoes and green beans when the dreaded prompt escapes my mother’s lips just like it does every year:

 “Ok now everyone share something you’re thankful for!” 

I glance across the table and see my older brother roll his eyes as my little brother lets out a small groan under his breath. My mother senses this but quickly adds on to her original statement. She tells us that we must think completely out of the box when coming up with something for which we are thankful. This meant that we could not say that we were thankful for the obvious things — the food on our table and the family around it. The dinner table went silent for a few minutes. 

Finally, my little brother piped up with, “I’m thankful for my ceiling fan.” At this, I giggled and looked at my mom. Surely that could not have been the response for which she was looking. Defensive, my brother exclaims, “What? I could not sleep at night without my ceiling fan so I am thankful for it.” I thought about it for a moment and realized he was right. 

That was a turning point for me. Gratitude was no longer just about the big things such as my friends and a roof over my head. Rather, gratitude became about the little things that happened throughout my day each and every day. I began noticing the things in my day that went right instead of the things that went wrong. Things like when the rain stopped in the knick of time for me to walk to my next class or when I would come home after a rough day to find my dishes washed and dried by my roommate even when I had been the one to let them pile up for days.

This sparked a transformation in my habits. I began keeping a daily gratitude journal filled with the things that sparked joy throughout even the “worst” days. Looking back in my gratitude journal as I write this, I am realizing that I began finding a positive to every negative. 

For example, when I was training to be a lifeguard I got the worst sunburn of my life and yet in my gratitude journal for that day I wrote that I was thankful for just happening to have aloe already on hand. Another change that I began to implement in my life was thanking those around me every time they did something I appreciated. A few weeks ago, on a particularly rough day, I ran into a friend I had not seen in a while. I sent her a text telling her how she had made my day only to have her tell me that my text had made hers. Realizing and expressing my gratitude has made me not only more positive but more aware of the little joys in life. 

If you’re trying to be more grateful, here’s my advice. The most important thing you can do is stop and notice. Notice the things that keep you going, notice the people that make your day when you least expect it, and notice when things go right when you expected them to go wrong. Take a mental note and make sure to express that gratitude in some way, whether that be by writing it down in a journal or making a phone call. If you begin to look for the positives, you might realize that your whole perspective is changed.