I was around 17 years old when I began babysitting for a family with two wonderful yet rambunctious children. I admired this family for several reasons, but I think I specifically looked up to them because of how well-rounded they were. They seemed to make time for everything, and despite their busy lives, they were pleasant, happy people. If they were ever the slightest bit stressed, it was impossible to tell.
“If ever a perfect family existed, this was it!”
One night, after I had put the kids to bed, I went downstairs to do some homework. I became thirsty and headed to the kitchen to grab a cup of water. On the way, I noticed a glass jar on the bookshelf. It was labelled “Gratitude 2017”. I could see tons of little pieces of paper folded up inside the jar. I was shocked. Not only did this family put their kids in a ton of extracurriculars, attend church every Sunday, work full time jobs, enjoy Saturday date nights, and regularly engage in games and activities with their kids, but they still managed to make time to practice gratitude.
If ever a perfect family existed, this was it!
You could see it in their mannerisms, the way they spoke, made each other laugh, and looked at each other; these parents were so in love with each other and with life. They brought this incredible energy and positivity wherever they went – it was very special. I had to wonder: could all of this be because they spent time actively appreciating their life and being grateful?
Whatever the reason for their happiness and success, I was set on finding it for myself. Deciding that I wanted to be more like them, I, too, created my own gratitude jar. Every time I experienced something pleasant and wonderful, whether an event, an interaction with a kind stranger, or even a simple activity like playing spike ball at the pier with my friends, I made a conscious effort to write it down and add it to my jar. After only a semester, I noticed that my jar had quickly filled up.
“Practicing gratitude is about taking the time to be grateful for what you have in your life.”
What an epiphany! As sad as it is to admit, before I actively chose to practice gratitude, it had never occurred to me how lucky I was. Between our day-to-day work, responsibilities, obstacles, and stressors, it is easy to forget or overlook how much good we experience in our lives. Practicing gratitude is powerful. It has helped me to recognize how I need to be more appreciative of the people in my life that do so much for me and consistently have my back. It also provided a sense of hope for me when nothing seemed to go my way.
A few years later, I enrolled in a course called Positive Psychology. The course centred around why some individuals are more resilient and experience better outcomes than others despite facing similar obstacles. During my research in this class, I noticed that countless scholarly articles found that happier, more resilient individuals were those that practiced gratitude often.
To put this theory to the test, a professor of mine suggested I hand-write letters and deliver them to the people that have greatly impacted my life. I wrote one to my closest friend. In my letter, I expressed my gratitude to her. I described some of the funniest moments we’ve shared, and I explained how grateful I was to have her in my life. She told me that my letter was the sweetest gesture anyone had ever done for her, and it made me happy to know that I made her so happy.
There are a multitude of ways that we can practice or incorporate gratitude in our daily lives. It certainly doesn’t have to be using a gratitude jar or handwriting letters. Practicing gratitude is about taking the time to be grateful for what you have in your life. It can be as simple as cooking a fancy dinner for someone you care about. Be as creative with it as you’d like.
“The more we actively practice gratitude, the more we will find things to be grateful for.”
One important lesson I learned from my positive psychology class is that the family I babysat for was not just lucky. Rather, they worked hard to stay organized and succeed in life – they were motivated to make time for what mattered most to them. Most importantly, though, by being grateful, kind, and appreciative of their opportunities and the people in their life, they attracted good energy and happiness.
The way I see it, with a little bit of effort, whatever you seek in life, you will find. This family taught me to look for the good in people and the good in life. Their example demonstrated that the more we actively practice gratitude, the more we will find things to be grateful for, which, let’s be honest, we could all use right now.
HEADER IMAGE SOURCE: https://www.choosingwisdom.org/attitude-gratitude-searching-ways-grateful/