During a trip to the grocery store the other day, I was humbled by what should have been a routine encounter. I stood in line at a very busy deli counter, observing how everyone’s patience was wearing thinner and thinner. There always seems to be somewhere else everyone needs to be no matter where they are at that moment.
As I grew closer to the counter, however, I began to notice a shift in the mood. Customers were turning around, packages in hand, with smiles on their faces, nodding to the next person in line as if they had a secret to share. When it was my turn, the white-aproned man behind the counter met me with a big smile, asked me how me day was, happily retrieved my order and – now this is the humbling part – said thank you, wished for me to have a wonderful day and told me that he was grateful for me.
Sounds corny, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t. Not for me, and not for most of the other customers waiting in line that day. Just hearing those words, even from a complete stranger, can be an amazing experience. And, it can help change attitudes. I bet that most of those impatient, have-to-get-on-with-life people (myself included) walked out of that store happier, calmer and hopefully willing to pay it forward. It was a day and a place where I least expected to hear words of gratitude, but it jolted me out of my ho-hum feeling and started me thinking about everything for which I am thankful.
Today, on Gratitude Day – a day sanctioned by the United Nations in 1966 – it’s not only the perfect time to reflect on and express gratitude for our blessings in life, it’s also a great time to think about what those expressions of gratitude can actually do. And maybe this one day to celebrate gratefulness will turn into 364 more. Here are five ways that showing gratitude can bring about change:
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” - John F. Kennedy
It seems like a simple concept, but it goes much deeper. Just like the deli worker who chose an attitude of gratitude that day, the way we treat others has a big impact on how they react. And it can affect how they, in turn, treat the people they meet. Just like any habit, gratitude has to be practiced. Hopefully, though, it becomes part of an everyday routine or feeling.
If you need to, start small – be there for a friend who needs someone to talk to or get a hug from. Or send a “just because” letter or card to someone important in your life. Unspoken expressions of gratitude are just as impactful as words. Even if you compliment someone’s outfit or hairstyle, that shows you are a grateful for them. And, not only does expressing your gratitude for someone make their day a little brighter, but it can also do wonders for increasing your own levels of happiness.
“It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”
-Brother David Steindl-Rast
When Gratitude Day was founded, it was done with the hope that if people took the time, one day a year, to reflect on the many amazing things in their lives, it would positively impact their well-being and make for a happier and more contented life. Again, with practice and intent, that can happen.
Not just today, but everyday, sit down and think of 5 to 10 things that make you feel grateful. Start a Gratitude Journal to document your thankfulness and positive thoughts. This way, you always have something to look back on and remind yourself when you have a bad day. Gratitude comes easier the more you practice it. And the more you practice it, the happier you will become. You can actually begin to rewire your brain to be naturally more grateful. In fact, in only two months of practicing gratitude, you will become more mindful, act happier and feel more empathy.
“Sometimes gratitude is a gentle reminder to recognize the sweet privilege of health, hope and heartbeat over the need for stuff.” –Kristin Granger
It’s not just happiness alone that is a bi-product of gratitude. Yes, being grateful can make you happy, but being happy can make you even more grateful. It’s a win-win situation, and it’s made even more so by the fact that being happy can make you healthier – both mentally and physically.
It is human nature to critique ourselves and pick on our own imperfections. But when you get into the habit of gratefulness, you can change your mind’s eye which will help change what you see in the mirror. The foundation of a grateful life is giving thanks for the beauty within the imperfection. Let yourself look at yourself and your life with understanding and loving eyes. Stop beating yourself up, and give thanks for each breath, each heartbeat. This change in attitude will help your mental well being and bring you more happiness. In turn, it will make you feel more willing to participate in life by exercising or starting a hobby you enjoy. Once your endorphins are flowing more, you will become even more active, which leads to increased physical health.
“Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.”
There are several ways that expressing gratitude can change lives. For one thing, in the simplest way, it can change people’s attitudes. When you take the time to thank others for what they have done, compliment them for something they are wearing or just plain tell them you are grateful for them, you make them feel good. Their mood is changed by your gratitude.
Giving back, by helping out in your local community is another way that your gratitude can change lives. Not only will it make you more grateful for the things that you may take for granted, but studies studies have shown that volunteering for the purpose of helping others increases our own well-being. And, volunteering your time on a bigger scale, such as with the Peace Corps or other worldwide organizations can significantly change the lives of those less fortunate. Volunteering and providing help to others who are in need shows them that you are thankful for their existence and care about their well-being – not to mention you are literally changing their lives for the better.
“Thankfulness creates gratitude which generates contentment that causes peace.”
Peace. It’s what most of us strive for. Peace of mind, peace in our lives and peace in the world. When you display an attitude of gratitude it is so much easier to be mindful of your surroundings and peaceful within your heart. This inner peace can actually exude a calming presence to those around you. Interestingly, The International Day of Peace, also established by the United Nations, is celebrated each year on September 21st, as well. The resolution was written to remind us all to respect each other’s differences and commit to building a culture of peace around the world. When you start with gratitude – for yourself, for your blessings in life and for others around you – it leads to positivity. This positivity can help lead to peace. It may not solve all of the world’s issues, but if more people adopted a more grateful way of living, then peace could be accomplished.
Our beautifully sweet rose quartz Sakura necklace is a perfect symbol of gratitude. Named after the Japanese word for cherry blossom, this delicate necklace is a reminder to be thankful for our blessings. The fragile, pale pink flowers of cherry trees bloom for only a very short period of time. For many people around the world, it is a reminder of how beautiful and precious life is. Tied to the Buddhist philosophy of mindfulness, the life cycle of cherry blossoms helps us remember to live more in the present, spend more time with family and friends and, most importantly, express daily gratitude for our lives
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