By Heather Medley
People who exercise gratitude are 25 percent happier according to a study conducted at the University of California at Davis.
Raising my kids to be grateful is important to me. I don’t want to raise selfish, entitled adults.
When I’m around my children I point out what others have done for them–a lot. I remind them to say thank you – It is a “Magic word” after all - and express gratitude in their words and actions. I share stories with them about people who act selflessly, who work hard and who live humbly.
I point out where I’m grateful to them.
And, if someone exercises gratitude with something I’ve done I share with my kids how much their gratitude meant to me.
Positive reinforcements make a difference.
Gratitude increases our happiness, improves our relationships, and makes us healthier.
And it does so reliably. Over 40 research studies have shown the same thing – gratitude rocks.
PRACTICE MAKES GRATEFUL
One year before Christmas when my children were little, I made them practice opening gifts before we went to our "big Chirstmas" with my family. I went and got things from their rooms, things they’ve already owned, things they weren’t grateful for anymore, and I put them in gift bags. I called them all into the living room, sat them down, and handed them each a sparkly bag. When they pulled toys they already owned out of the bag, their heads shot up and their eye brows furrowed. Then I reminded them that they did like their items and we practiced looking happy, saying thank you immediately, saying at least one way that we would use our new gift or why we liked it.
It made a huge difference.
Months before this holiday drill, one of the children had a birthday party and ripped through the gifts so quickly, no one had time to appreciate the gifts, thank the giver – if we even had time to figure out what was from which guest – and certainly no time to express our gratefulness for their presence and present.
I started a hashtag a few years ago that I used as we re-posted social media stories from scholars, who were mostly studying abroad or graduating, reflecting on how they arrived at that point. From the moment of our first Terry Advising sessions during Red Raider Orientation, I begin to stress the character traits we expect to see from scholars at Texas Tech. I often remind them that there is nothing they did or could do to EARN or deserve $120,000 from a stranger. It’s a gift. It’s a blessing.
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH IT?
One of my favorite stories to share is that of Payton Manning, first round, 1998 pick from Tennessee. He was the highest paid draft pick of all time. Hindsight says the Indianapolis Colts made the right decision, drafting Manning and signing him to a six-year, $47.7 million contract with an $11.6 million signing bonus. People very quickly started asking him what he was going to do with all of that money. He responded, “Earn it.”
Manning is a first-ballot Hall of Famer after wrapping up an incredible 17-year career. He threw for 54,848 yards and 198 touchdowns while leading the Colts to the playoffs 11 times and the Super Bowl twice -- winning one -- during his 13 years with the franchise. He has been paid more than any other player in NFL history, and it is not even close.
I’d say that he earned it. Tech Terry Scholars will earn it too.
Their stats will include service in student organizations, academic leadership, and investments in the community. As alumni, they will give back and serve the communities in which they live, their alma maters, and the foundation.
Gratitude works when you’re grateful for something real. Feeling euphoric and spending money like you just won the lottery when you didn’t is probably going to make you real poor, real quick. But what are you actually grateful for? It’s a question that could change your life.
Thinking about those things for which we are truly grateful can have an enormous impact. Try one of these to get started:
- Gratitude Journal
At the end of each day, write down – or even just say aloud - a few items for which you are grateful.
I once read a book, One Thousand Gifts by Ann VosKamp, where she catalogs these gifts. They are the ordinary and every day things like “morning shadows across old floors, jam piled high on the toast, cry of blue jay from high in the spruce” (those are numbers 1, 2 and 3 on the list). One Thousand Gifts is about seeing the need for gratitude and then learning to express it not just in spite of life’s trials, but even through them. She refers to this as eucharisteo, a Greek word for thanksgiving.
It is a brilliant and potentially life changing exercise.
Thankfulness feels good, it’s good for you and it’s a blessing for the people around you, too. It’s such a win-win-win that I’d say we have cause for gratitude.