“Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.” Fred De Witt Van Amburgh
In January of 2015, I launched this website from a hotel room overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. If I remember correctly, the water was a color blue that I have rarely seen on the east coast. Dave and I woke to a beautiful sunrise and bone-chilling cold temperatures.
I pitched my idea to Dave a few days before. As always, he was so supportive of anything I chose to venture out and try. I recognized that focusing on intentional gratitude was not a new concept. Oprah introduced gratitude journals to the world several years ago. The research behind gratitude and thankfulness is very powerful. So, undertaking this feat would not introduce the world to anything groundbreaking or important; yet, I felt compelled to do so anyway.
To date, I have published 98 essays since that first one in January 2015. That’s a lot of intentional living. Some of these are really good insights and some are an attempt to squeeze some form of thankfulness out of seemingly mundane or otherwise difficult circumstance circumstances.
Finding topics to write about, week after week, is difficult. There are weeks when everyday life presents me with what I need; other times, I get my ideas from current events. I have been known to use other people’s circumstances as a platform. There have been a couple of occasions when the only thing I could write about was my frustration at trying to find gratitude in my life. My fear as a writer is losing ideas or appearing redundant or irrelevant. Maybe I fear appearing to try too hard at being grateful; because, let’s face it – life isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. It is hard and finding ways to feel gratitude during the difficult days can be a chore.
However, I can write with confidence that this journey, which began in 2015, has given me a deeper sense of how wonderful this world is and how fortunate I am to be here, right now.
Now let’s get to the heart of this week’s essay: setting the intention of living through the lens of gratitude.
Why should we focus on a life centered around intentional gratefulness?
Well, aside from the obvious, there is a vast quantity of compelling research that heralds the benefits of gratitude. The author of the website happierhuman.com, Amit Amin, compiled the research found in numerous medical studies about the benefits of gratitude. On his website, he writes extensively about how gratitude positively affects our lives in 5 key areas: Personality, Emotional Well-Being, Social Well-Being, Career and Health.
The results are impressive.
Emotional Well-Being: more “good” feelings (Dopamine and Oxytocin – chemicals released in the brain that promote the “feel good” feelings), a greater sense of relaxation (serotonin – another mood booster from the brain), better memories, greater resiliency, and fewer feelings of envy (remember: comparison is a mood killer).
Career: better management, improved networking, goal achievements, improved decision-making skills and increased productivity.
Health: improved and better sleeping, greater immunity and ability to fight illness, longevity, increased energy and a desire to exercise.
Social Well-Being: improvement in our social relationships, aid in healthier marriages, instill a greater tendency to show kindness, deeper relationships, and more openness to meeting and making new friends.
Personality: people who live with a deliberate life of gratitude will experience less desire for materialism, less self-centeredness, more optimism, increased self-esteem, and a deeper sense and connection to spirituality.
So, what can we do to promote a greater sense of gratitude in our lives?
I think it begins with more awareness. Our days are filled with work, family, busy schedules, etc., and that can make it more difficult to stop and consider all that we have to be grateful for. I am trying something different this year. I have a journal next to my bed that I have never used. The other night, I pulled it out and decided that this was the place I would record my moments of gratitude.
I began by listing my goals for 2017 under the umbrella of my word for the year: LINGER.
Each evening before I turn out the light, I look at those goals and consider how my decision to LINGER will effect my ability to real those goals. On the pages that follow, I take about 2 minutes and write one (1) thing I am grateful for that happened that day. Just one.
This is my new way to stay centered on all of the wonderful, tiny things that happen in my days. At the end of 2017, I can look back and see 365 ways that my life has blessed me. I’m not sure I could have come up with 365 things to be grateful for all at once; but, my intention is to LINGER each night and let God show me at least one thing that deserves my gratitude.
Other people do the same thing but write it on slips of paper that are then put in a jar. At the end of the year, or on a particularly difficult day, they can pull out a random note and find something to be grateful for. Same principle as mine.
I say: find whatever works for you.
However, you decide to move through 2017, I challenge you to do so with a more intentional sense of gratitude.
I don’t think you will regret it.
Reader, I leave you with the following: