Growing Gratitude Prompts Good Habits
The other day I received a tiny stamped envelope in my mail box.
I opened it to find card featuring a delicately illustrated peony in full bloom, a beautiful and uplifting image.
Inside on the two card flaps in lovely handwriting was a heartfelt message of thanks from the young daughter of a friend of mine who had received a gift from me on her wedding.
She didn’t just talk about the gift I gave her, although she thanked me eloquently for it. She also mentioned how much it meant to her to see my face as she walked down the aisle and the support I had given her over the years.
My heart was full after reading her message, and when I turned to go back to my tasks, my heart was lighter and I felt uplifted and happy.
I can’t remember the last time I had received such a card. Lots of people say thank-you but they come as email messages complete with smiling-faced emojis and plenty of exclamation marks.
Somehow the thought of the young woman taking the time to secure a beautiful card, hand-write a message, buy a stamp and get it to a mailbox meant more. It represented planning and forethought and extra effort. It was a keepsake, not something to be quickly deleted after a cursory glance.
Many writers have focused on the importance of growing the habit of gratitude, so that we feel a sense of being blessed and secure within our hearts. We know we must be mindful of the good things in our lives and remember them when we go through tough times.
But we write less about giving thoughts of gratitude to others, and the thank-you card prompted me to want to explore that more.
A lot of research has been done on how important it is for us to practice gratitude and express our thankfulness. For example, the psychologist Robert Emmons suggests that gratitude reduces depression and increases our overall happiness. We have less aches and pains when we are grateful, and we are more generous and empathetic. We are less materialistic and we overcome disappointment more easily. We even sleep better.
But how do we make expressing our gratefulness to others a part of our daily lives?
Here are some ideas I thought about that I plan to incorporate into my own life:
- Send a card to someone you appreciate. I have decided not to wait to receive a gift to write and send a thank-you card. Instead, after a wonderful phone conversation or lunch or collaborative work effort, I plan to send a little note to tell the person how grateful I am to have them in my life and how my days are brightened because of their friendship and support. I have purchased some lovely cards and already stamped the envelopes, so my resolve can turn into reality quickly and easily when the thought occurs.
- Every day I will give someone I appreciate a gift. This does not mean a gift that costs money; instead I mean a helpful thought, an act of kindness or consideration, or a sharing of something I have.
- More and more I realize the impact of complaints on our mood. As part of practicing gratitude with others, I resolve to stage at least one “no complaints” week every month. (You have to start realistically.) This idea came to me when I realized how even hearing people complaining on the television news as I got ready for work in the morning was a downer. Meeting a friend for lunch and having them gripe and complain was also hard on the spirit, even though I care about them and want to help. Stopping myself when I feel the urge to complain is already filling my mind with more positive thoughts!
- Finally, I am going to stop referencing the weather in bad terms. This may seem minor, but I am a Canadian and the one thing we have more of than anything else is weather. It is too hot, too cold, too windy, too rainy, too full of sleet, too full of thunder, too dry, too wet, too humid, and too frosty. That is an essential component of our daily conversation. From this point forward, I am grateful for each day I am given and am able to get out and enjoy. I will try to appreciate the circumstances of the atmosphere and if I must talk about it, I will say something pleasant. If it is cold, I will speak of my invigoration; if it is hot I will speak of my warmth and glow.
Paula Morand, CSP is a leadership building, revenue boosting, strategy expanding keynote speaker, author and visionary. This dreaming big and being bold leadership expert and brand strategist brings her vibrant energy, humor and wisdom to ignite individuals, organizations and communities to lead change, growth and bold impact. 23 years, 25,000 clients, 34 countries, 14 books, former radio personality, 11x award winning entrepreneur and humorous emcee.
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