Lauren Hoekstra — Staff Writer
A practice common in my family, especially when my brother and I were younger, was to go around the table on Thanksgiving and have everyone share one thing they were thankful for. For me, this didn’t really mean anything. I would usually say something like “my friends” or “mashed potatoes” or something that would be a given.
However, as I get older, I am noticing things that I never would have noticed when I was younger. This Thanksgiving, I was thankful for friends who had my back in hard times, for the ability to see the vibrant colors of fall and for cars that start reliably every year.
But why do we all wait until the holiday season to be grateful?
Around the holiday season, I see lots of posts of gratitude, whether that’s for friends, family, significant others, pet dogs or sunsets.
Yes, these are all great things to be thankful for. But when was the last time that you considered what a gift it is to have fresh clean water to drink? Or hot showers whenever you want? Or consistent electricity? Or so many different food options at the Commons or Grille or at your house?
All of these things are gifts that many people, both in our country and around the world, do not have access to. By taking these for granted, we are basically ignoring God’s blessings and gifts to us.
When you approach each day with a sense of thankfulness, you are focusing on what you have rather than what you do not have. This is so much healthier for the mind!
According to the National Institute of Health, practicing consistent gratitude helps relieve stress, lowers risk of heart disease, diminish depressive symptoms, among others.
People who practice thankfulness more often tend to be more relaxed, more resilient and have a more positive outlook on life. This impacts their personalities and self-esteem so they are able to cultivate deeper relationships with people who want to be around them.
If we adopt thankfulness as a lifestyle instead of a temporary mindset during just the holidays, the way we interact with the world and the people in it will change.
However, for us in our twenty-first century lives, it is difficult to always be thankful. Why is that?
Maybe we are so busy with our things and our lives that we tend to be distracted. Life becomes more about “me” and what “I” want.
Being thankful doesn’t have to be hard or a chore. There are some small things that students can do to foster thankfulness year-round. An easy way to stay grateful is by writing thank you notes. This helps the person write express their gratitude and can also help build better relationships. Even an anonymous, a thank you letter can be treasured for years to come by the recipient.
Keeping a journal, either gratitude or general, is a way to keep thinking about the things that you’re thankful for, and it is easy to go back and refresh your memory on what you were thankful for in the past.
Another way to stay grateful is by volunteering or paying it forward. This can be as easy as paying for the drink of the person next in line at the coffee shop or helping out at a clothing drive in your community. Volunteering is a win-win for all the parties involved. It helps those in need, and it helps us appreciate what we might normally take for granted.
Once we learn that practicing thankfulness can add to overall happiness, we may be able to solve a lot of problems.
Change on the macro-level in society can only be accomplished by first starting at the micro-level, with each individual making the change in themselves.
Each person has to first make the decision that this is how I want to approach life. It requires that person to have a degree of self-reflection and to take the time to look at how you approach life. Then you make a conscious choice. You choose to be grateful for what you have at that moment. But first, you have to recognize that it’s a choice.