Have you ever taken time out of your day to reflect on all of the blessing you have been given? I mean really reflect on them? I think a lot of people hear the phrase "be grateful," and they don't really stop to consider what that actually means. In many ways the phrase has even become somewhat of a cliche - something that people think of as being very casual and not really having that much of an impact on their life. For me personally, I remember my parents always making my sister and I write thank you cards to everyone for our birthday or Christmas gifts, but it wasn't until I was older that I really began to consider the significance of what true gratitude means.
So what is gratitude? To me, gratitude goes far beyond a simple "thank you." It is a state of being. It is a way we can choose to live our lives. If you were to look back on the times in your life when you were the happiest, how many times did you not realize just how happy you were until after the moment had passed? When you are really happy, you need to notice it. You need to be able to recognize that moment, and you need to really be there. Sure, some of these moments may be easy to recognize - when you were accepted into college, the day you finally got your dream job, your wedding day. But I can just about guarantee you that not all of the moments when you were happiest were "the big" moments. Sometimes it might be when you are laying down in the grass looking up at the clouds, or when you are having lunch with your best friend, or when you do something nice for someone and you see it in their eyes how much it meant to them. These are the moments in life that you need to be grateful for.
But I also think it's important to be grateful for the times when things maybe weren't so perfect. Be thankful for the challenges in your life! Be thankful for the times that you failed! These are the times when you are able to learn, and to grow, and to become stronger. The year following my mother's cancer diagnosis was one of the hardest years of my life, but had it not been for her illness, I probably never would have discovered my passion for health and wellbeing and would never have been inspired to write this blog. The struggles that we went through during that time also made my family grow so much closer. It forced me to be an adult when I was still a child, but as a result I developed an immense amount of respect for my parents and the strength they embodied. My sister and I began to lean on each other for support even though all we used to do was fight (we do still have our moments... we are sisters after all). Despite of how unbelievably torturous it was to watch my mom battle against cancer, I came out of that experience knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was one of the times of my life that I was most grateful for because of how much stronger it made me.
Be thankful for your health. Be thankful that your body is amazing enough to allow to you walk, to see, to hear, to think, to breathe. Be thankful for your friends who support you and are not afraid to tell you the truth in moments when you fail to see it. Be thankful for your family. Be thankful for this beautiful planet that we are so blessed to live on and need to take care of.
Dr. Robert Emmonsis a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis who has studied the effects of gratitude on health for over thirty years. His research shows that people who regularly experience gratitude have improved mental, physical, and relational well-being. They have a greater sense of self-worth, a stronger immune system, a healthier heart, lower blood pressure, less stress, and stronger relationships. Pretty amazing, right?
We can be so busy with school, work, hobbies, and chasing after our dreams that it is really easy to lose sight of what matters most in life, especially the small things. But it is so incredibly important to be present and really notice the blessings that come your way. What I find helps me is to spend a few minutes every night before I go to bed looking back on my day and recognizing those moments that were important to me. Some people like to keep a gratitude journal and write in it every night. If you do this, I highly encourage you to not just make a bullet point list of the things you are grateful for because that doesn't really require you to reflect on it very much. Rather, try writing about whythose moments were so special to you, and be able to recognize the source of where those blessings came from.
I guarantee you that if you take some time every day to focus on gratitude, it will change your life in more ways than you can imagine. It certainly has for me.
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