If you’ve never had the chance to visit Washington DC, there’s something stirring about seeing the Declaration of Independence and touring historical monuments that celebrate our country’s history. There’s much to learn about our ancestors and all they endured for the freedom we experience today. It’s difficult to imagine what life was like back in 1775, and the Fourth of July is a great time to reflect on our wonderful country as we celebrate freedom and independence.
There’s also another form of freedom we can celebrate, and that comes with the act of gratitude. Google defines gratitude as “The quality of being thankful; the readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Wikipedia’s page takes it one step further and states: “Gratitude has been said to have one of the strongest links with mental health of any character trait. Grateful people are happier, less depressed, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives and social relationships.”
I don’t know about you, but I’d like to live a happier, less stressed life. So, how can we show gratitude?
Say “Thank You.” It doesn’t matter how big or small the act is, saying these two words makes a difference. If someone holds open the door, hands you something, or pays you a compliment, or when the server delivers your food, just say “thank you.” It matters.
Be Kind. Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Hold open the door, place flags on a cemetery grave, smile and say “hi” to a stranger, celebrate someone else’s success, say a kind word, be encouraging in all your Facebook comments, offer to help, give compliments, and refuse to gossip. And don’t forget to be kind to yourself, too.
Write a Note. Send a note to someone for whom you are grateful and tell them why. In my research, I learned psychologists use this technique to help people with their overall mental health. Even just thinking or writing about someone you are grateful for can help.
Start a Gratitude Journal. I love to stop and think about what it is around me that I can be thankful for. It’s amazing the little things you’ll notice when you do this. Sometimes we’re so caught up in our to-do list, we don’t stop to appreciate what’s going on around us – like baby birds chirping or the sun shining so flowers will open and bloom. If writing in a journal seems a bit overwhelming, another option is to write out 3-5 things you’re thankful for at the end of each day.
Change Your Perspective. Even in the mundane and ordinary parts of our lives, we can find ways to be grateful. When mounds of dirty clothes scream for attention, I have to remind myself to say thanks for the clothes I have while I fold the laundry. In the hurriedness of getting dinner on the table, I remind myself to give thanks for having the option of what to put on the table, having a table to sit at, and the fact that it’s not the only meal for the day. When I get stopped at yet another red light, I pause and refocus my thoughts to be grateful for the vehicle I drive and my ability to travel from one place to another. These small things are what life is all about. Being grateful for even the stressful stuff will help us deal with it better.
Show Grace. Grace seems to mean different things to different people, but the dictionary’s definition is “goodwill,” and synonyms include tenderness, compassion, generosity, and kindness. None of us are perfect, and we will make mistakes. Forgiveness, patience, understanding, or even just a hug to let someone know you care can go a long way.
This year, as we celebrate our nation’s birthday, let us all show a little more gratitude toward others and ourselves. And to learn more about our country’s history, I recommend reading books, either fiction or non-fiction. I recently finished a fiction novel set during the revolutionary era that included George Washington and Ben Franklin. Even though it was a work of fiction, the historical significance reminded me of the sacrifices our ancestors made.
Not everyone will agree with every decision in our great country, but we all can still find something to be thankful for. Without our forefathers, we wouldn’t have the lives we live today.
Happy Birthday, America!
Denise M. Colby loves to encourage and engage her readers through her articles, blogs, and marketing content. She also writes uplifting historical stories sprinkled with faith, hope, and love. Find out more at www.denisecolby.com.