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Gratitude: A Foreign Concept

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Gratitude is a word we are all familiar with. From a young age, our parents, mentors, friends, etc. are always reminding us to be thankful for what we have. But throughout our lives, we are also bombarded with the idea that we always need more, that we are not really satisfied unless we have x, y, or z. What ultimately happens then, is that "gratitude" gets left behind, and we ultimately become so focused on what we DON'T have instead of what we DO have.

There is a children's book called _Where the Mountain Meets the Moon_ by Grace Lin that focuses on this epidemic of always searching for what we don't have instead of what we do have. One of the main ideas in the book is that the secret to happiness is thankfulness. When I first read that, I remember thinking to myself, "Why yes, that makes sense." But do I follow it? Of course not. I'm always focusing on the weight I haven't lost or the house I don't have or the numbers in my bank account that I haven't achieved yet or the time I don't have.... It's always don't, don't, don't. I never focus on my good health or the fact that I'm lucky to have parents and future in-laws that support me and love me or that I have been in a strong relationship with my boyfriend for over 5 1/2 years. And when I think about this, I wonder "why?" Why do I consistently focus on the negative aspects of my life instead of celebrating the bounties I do have?

I read an article on Spark People today that talked about gratitude and how even simple changes like writing down 5 things a person is thankful for can change a person's outlook on his/her life. This claim is even supported by current research in neuroscience that shows that simply changing the way we think and reflect on our thoughts can drastically change our behaviors in both positive and negative ways. So why don't more people do this? I think we are bombarded so much with reminders of what we don't have that it becomes so easy, too easy, to focus on just that. These are the same habits that lead to overeating, emotional eating, poor self esteem, depression, anxiety, stress, among other horrible habits and ailments. Yet the cure is so simple: BE THANKFUL!

I want anyone who read this to really think about this and reflect on your own level of gratitude. Are you truly thankful, or do you find yourself focusing on only what you have not achieved? I am going to make it my mission to start actively thinking about what I should be thankful for and redirecting my assessment of my own life. I know I will feel better and be more successful by doing so.
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