• 6/9/2020

    Make an Attitude of Gratitude Your Antidote

    Gratitude has always been a valuable quality that can lift a mood, a situation, a relationship, a career and even an entire life. But there has never been a more important time than right now — today — to cultivate and share an authentic attitude of gratitude. Whether you live in Fairview, Texas or New York City, whether you work in economic development or literally any other field, gratitude has the power to change your life and the lives of all you encounter.
    Gratitude-Heart-in-Hand.jpgA quick Google search for "gratitude” yields this definition: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. It comes from the Latin word gratus, which means "thankful, pleasing."
    In general terms, gratitude is the appreciation of what is valuable to you, being thankful for what you have or have worked toward and showing this appreciation to others.
    Research shows that practicing gratitude is beneficial to our emotional wellness, and these benefits also carry over into other aspects of wellness. Gratitude increases our happiness and can even have a positive effect on our physical health. Being grateful elicits the relaxation response, which causes the brain to release chemicals that slow down our muscles and organs and increase blood flow to the brain and can help us sleep better.
    Practicing gratitude strengthens relationships and makes us better friends to others (social wellness) and boosts overall well-being.
    Tony Robbins calls gratitude the antidote to the things in life that mess us up. For example, you cannot be angry and grateful at the same time. It is also impossible to be fearful and grateful at the same time. So, gratitude a remedy for both anger and fear. 
    Like anything else, developing an attitude of gratitude requires practice. There are moments in life that make it seemingly impossible to be grateful. Waking up every day and conditioning your mind to recognize the blessings that surround you is as important to your mental health as physical activity is to your physical health. Thinking of and focusing on specific situations that you can be thankful for, whether they are the little ones or the big ones, allows you to take control of your mind. It’s absolutely essential to do it every single day, and not to just say thank you, but to step into those moments and feel the gratitude and the aliveness that comes from being grateful.
    Even the mere act of waking up should create some gratitude when you consider that thousands of people who close their eyes at night never reopen them. Tomorrow is promised to no one and recognizing each new day as a blessing helps keep things in perspective throughout the day.
    Over the years, I have learned a couple of ways to help me build my gratitude attitude. Here are two exercises I would like to share with you that can help you on your path to a life of gratitude.
    Give Me Five
    First thing in the morning when you wake up, take those first precious minutes to think about five people in your life for whom you are grateful. Picture each one of them individually. Think about the many ways the individual has touched your life. Picture looking them in the eye, noticing the color of their eyes, and saying thank you. Then picture them laughing and being full of joy and happiness and send them your gratitude once again.
    This will help you begin the day focused on what is most important to you. This also helps you when you find yourself in a moment of low self-esteem. You can simply close your eyes and repeat this process, remembering the people who love you and care for you.
    This exercise reminds you just how rich you are in life and allows you to pull out of a depressed mode. To help you start this habit, place a sticky note on your bathroom mirror. When you walk into the bathroom for the first time in the morning and see it in the mirror, I am giving you permission to get back in bed and do this exercise to start your day.
    Take Two and Call Me in the Morning  
    Each day while you are drinking your morning coffee or tea, handwrite at least two thank-you notes. That's it. This simple habit has impacted my life in every role I play, including husband, father, friend, client, boss and employee. In each position, this habit of creating an attitude of gratitude has allowed me to be better.
    To be honest, it was not always easy. It was tough to look around and see all the reasons to be grateful. Often, I focused on what I should be mad about versus why I should be grateful. I think we all do that at times.
    The idea is to write two thank-you notes before you jump into the business of your day. Doing this forces you to become more aware of people in your daily life that help you.
    At first, you may find yourself staring at a blank notecard, thinking, "No one did anything for me yesterday. Who the heck am I supposed to thank?" I faced this at first. I was looking for big things. I would eventually figure out someone I could thank and scribble something short just to mark it off my to-do list.
    You might find yourself writing some obvious thank-you notes. You will write one to a colleague that helps you often. You may write to a vendor who did something particularly helpful for you. But at some point, it may get a little tougher to identify just who might deserve a thank-you note from you. This is where the magic starts to happen.
    Knowing that it is a task to write thank-you notes, your subconscious mind will begin to take notice of moments that deserve your gratitude. As I continued to write notes day after day, I began to become much more aware of even the smallest things that I appreciated in others. I noticed that the barista smiled so brightly at me that it lifted my morning. The friendly security guard in the lobby always acknowledged me as I strolled by. The counter clerk at the dry cleaners took my clothes with a smile and an enthusiastic "Good morning, Mr. Quinn." I would think to myself, "I should write that person a thank you note." Why? Because that little interaction changed my attitude for the day. And when you change your attitude, you change your altitude.
    I also began to see all the things my co-workers were doing to help me succeed, like the admin who made sure I was in the right place at the right time or the parks person who made sure the park was extra clean for my site visit. You could argue, I guess, that these are all things they should do anyway, so why take time to write a thank-you note? I will tell you that in writing the notes and acknowledging their contributions, I was able to build better relationships, which led to more successes overall. People want to know that what they do matters, and receiving a handwritten thank-you note is a great way to let them know.   
    Now I keep a note page on my iPhone to help keep track of my thank-you list. From time to time, I still find myself sitting at my desk, staring at a blank notecard. I am learning not to beat myself up for these lapses of gratitude. The thing to remember when this happens is that we are all selfish, and the act of writing thank-you notes is something we are doing to counteract this normal tendency. So brush it off and jot a note to your spouse or any loved one. I can guarantee they deserve it. If you have never written a handwritten thank-you note to your spouse or your child, I challenge you to do so and watch how they light up when they receive it.
    How to write a thank-you note: Express your gratitude and name the gift or action you are thankful for. Then write a sentence or two about how you benefited from the recipient's gift or action. Sign your name. That’s it. Keep it short and to the point. They will love it. I guarantee it. 
    Life is filled with these little moments every day, and we often take them for granted.  So, go ahead and write two in the morning and call me. I can’t wait to hear how it goes.
    Starting each day with a bit of gratitude can set the tone for the rest of life. It does not mean things will never go wrong or that everything will be rosy, but it does mean that when you do encounter a challenge, you will be in a better mental space to tackle it.
    I promise you that your investment in building an attitude of gratitude will have a profound impact on your emotional well-being.
    Dave Quinn, Fairview Economic Development

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