Thank you; two words we utter daily, and yet we often neglect to acknowledge their true power and meaning. What does it really mean to say thank you and whom does it benefit?
Even in our darkest hours we always have something we can be grateful for. Sometimes, gratitude, the act of appreciation, can be the most challenging practice, but it always holds the potential for tremendous positive growth.
The late Wake Forest basketball coach Skip Prosser, used to say, ‘Never delay gratitude’. I am grateful to so many for their guidance, inspiration and help throughout my career, and more importantly my life. I have been positively influenced (and negatively) by so many people, and in moments of reflection I’ve been able to appreciate just how fortunate I have been to have these great people in my life. Each has made me better in so many ways, and as I believe a better person, a better husband, a better dad, a better basketball player and a better leader.
Practicing gratitude has remarkable power for two main reasons:
Gratitude allows us to see the positive in things:
Sometimes we get carried away with emotion and struggle to find anything good in a particular situation. Being grateful has a great way of grounding us, and allows us to apply an optimistic lens to a circumstance and recognise elements of positivity that we may not have otherwise identified.
Gratitude connects us to others:
Gratitude has the ability to connect us to things outside of ourselves. It gets us to look at the world around us and pinpoint things that we truly appreciate. While these things can be as simple as good weather, having a safe and comfortable place to live, or having the time to pick up and read a book, we achieve a sense of inner peace and happiness when we don’t take such things for granted. And, when we think about the people we are truly appreciative of and grateful for in our lives we connect ourselves to something bigger than just us.
While recognising the power of gratitude is important, figuring out how to make it a habit is key. Writing a letter of gratitude is an exercise that has been researched extensively and has been shown to increase levels of happiness and life satisfaction while simultaneously decreasing depression
A letter of gratitude can be written to anyone, as a way of expressing thanks for anything that feels meaningful to you, whether it is something big or small. While research shows that the impact on happiness is reported to be greater when the letter is actually given to an individual, these letters can also be written with no intention of being sent. This can feel unnatural and uncomfortable, but it is through this discomfort that we have the most opportunity to grow as individuals. Challenge yourself… think about who you are grateful for and step outside your comfort zone and say thank you in a way that feels significant and meaningful to you.
We live in a culture that has an obsession with negativity, and it’s easy for us to get caught up in how “bad” things are, as well as in our own personal and insatiable desire for more, thinking that what we have and how things are in our own lives is never quite good enough. However, regardless of the specific circumstances of our lives, even and especially when they’re difficult, if we stop, pay attention, and look for it, there are always so many things we can be grateful for—if we choose to be. Gratitude is a practice, not a concept. And, like any other practice, the more genuine and consistent we are with it, the more valuable and beneficial it is.
...So in the end, what are you grateful for?