For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.~Ralph Waldo Emerson
My family and I spent the Holidays with my in-laws as we usually do. My wife’s grandmother spent time with us as well. She is 100 years old!
While sitting outside enjoying the California sun, my wife asked her grandmother,
“What’s the best advice you can give me after living 100 years?”
Her grandmother, without pause, said, “You must always maintain an attitude of gratitude.”
Coming from someone who lived through almost every major event of the 20th Century; the Great Depression (and several major recessions), World War II (and others), the death of her husband, and more…I took notice.
Why should gratitude be the biggest takeaway after 100 years of life? Why should thinking about who and what we are grateful for make such a big difference in our lives?
- It reminds you to focus on the positive things in your life. We have people in our life we should be thankful for, whether they’re loved ones, a new friend, or just a stranger you met who was kind to you for a moment.
- It flips bad things on its head. When I have a crappy day at work, I am thankful that I have work. I am grateful for life’s challenges; at least it’s not boring! I am grateful that I have learned a ton in my life through its challenges; I am a better person for them.
- It reminds you of what’s important. It’s hard to complain about the little things when you give thanks that your children are alive and healthy. It’s hard to get stressed out over paying bills when you are grateful there is a roof over your head.
- It reminds you to thank others. I’m trying to get better at this one. Saying “thank you” to someone can make a big difference in that person’s life. Calling them, emailing them, stopping by to say thank you … just taking that minute out of your life to tell them why you are grateful toward them is important to them. People like being appreciated for who they are and what they do. It costs you little, but makes someone else happy.
If you carve out 5 minutes of your day for a little gratitude session, you will gain perspective while all around you is chaotic.
Every day is different. I am grateful for something else each day.
How to Maintain an Attitude of Gratitude
I am nowhere close to maintaining the attitude my grandmother-in-law has. But I am trying.
If you’re interested in starting an attitude of gratitude, here are my suggestions:
- Say thank you. When someone does something nice for you, however small, try to remember to say thank you. And really mean it.
- Call to say thanks. Pick up the phone and call someone, just to say thanks for something they have done for you. Let them know what they did that you’re grateful for, and why you appreciate it. This takes 2 minutes. Even better is telling them in person, if you happen to see them or if they’re on your route.
- Give thanks for “negative” things in your life. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night (or a daydream) shuddering at the thought of stupid or negative stuff that has occurred in my life; sometimes of my own doing! However, I would not be the person I am today without all the positive and negative things that have happened in my life. Giving thanks for those things is a great way to remind yourself that there is good in just about everything. Problems can be seen as opportunities to grow, to be creative.
I certainly am no master on maintaining this attitude, but I have resolved to start the journey. After all, we do have a lot to be thankful for.