Brené Brown, a Residential Life favorite, writes in The Gifts of Imperfection, “Every person I interviewed who described living a joyful life or who described themselves as joyful, actively practiced gratitude and attributed their joyfulness to their gratitude practice.” Sure, we all have those days where it is an absolute miracle to have survived responsibilities and demands of school and work, or in our personal lives, but how fantastic would it be to approach our responsibilities with a grateful heart and reflective gratitude for the things we’ve done and accomplished, or simply, for what we have or what’s brought us joy that day?
Thanksgiving is traditionally a time of congregating and showing gratitude and thanks for our families, friends, etc. I know in my family, we don’t eat on Thanksgiving until the entire family has expressed a point of gratitude. This is always a personal struggle as our Thanksgiving table always smells incredibly delicious (looking at you, sweet potato crunch casserole), but that’s neither here nor there. My point is, what would it be like if we carried throughout each day with a spirit of thanks and gratitude, no matter if it’s the fourth Thursday in November (or the second Monday in October, hey Canada!), or the first Monday of June?
Speaking personally, this academic year has been the season of struggles and successes, but I do know that I would not have been as centered to tackle each day had I not made expressing gratitude a personal and daily practice. I also cannot deny that I am way too excited to crack open my new 2015 planner, intentionally selected for its “Daily Gratitude” section. But, how do you express gratitude daily? This is definitely a personal choice, but in my experience, I’ve found the following to resonate with me in very profound ways…see what resonates with you! Keep a daily gratitude journal, just for you, where you simply record a few points, people, things, or interactions from the day that you are truly and simply grateful to have experienced. Reflect on what brought joy to your soul, or what caused you to pause and notice on the good things in front of you. Connect with others in your life about how impactful they are to you. Thank the barista who made your coffee, regardless of how creatively they spelled your name on your daily iced chai latte with soy milk! Focus on expressing positives rather than dishing on the negatives with your best friends, and ask for their support in your practice of this. Finally, and one that has been a personal struggle but has taught me so much: be thankful for the struggles and the tough times. Focus on giving thanks for what you’ve learned from them and how you’ve grown, rather than showing relief when they pass, or lingering in exasperation or negative thoughts.
I want to challenge each of you to develop this personal practice during this season of thanks, and beyond. During my time at Loyola thus far, as a student and staff member, I will absolutely admit that there have been times where I have felt stressed to my limits and asking myself if I was even remotely capable of doing the work required of me to be a person for and with others. But soon enough, after developing my practice of intentionally expressing and reflecting on points of gratitude, the struggles and the stressors didn’t seem so insurmountable – there was always a lesson to learn and to be grateful for. There is always a reason to be thankful, and to experience the joy that comes from it.”