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Tania is currently the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of The Hudsucker, and Senior Editor at the Nashville, Tennessee based PopCulture.com. With past writing and editing credits with Womanista, Quietly, the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) and NBC Newsvine, she is currently a member of Indianapolis based, Society of Professional Journalists — one of the oldest organizations in the U.S. that promotes and represents journalists. She is an avid Indianapolis Colts, Elvis Presley and baseball fan as well as a lover of pancakes and fine cheeses, film, and music. Tania is a Hoosier at heart with a passionate wanderlust for always traveling and giving back to those in her community. She is currently studying at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Follow Tania on Twitter: @westlifebunny.

Celebrating World Gratitude Day: The Importance of a Thankful Heart

{Image Credit: Getty Images/Meredith Winn Photography/Moment}

{Image Credit: Getty Images/Meredith Winn Photography/Moment}

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in these past few years, it’s that our heart and soul is designed in such a way that it can combat any obstacle with courage, patience, and time. It isn’t easy to comprehend the reasoning behind the occurrence of these impediments, but it’s well known that in life, we will go through unexpected challenges that arise on our path to success and happiness. Along the way you will be hurt, but it’s through these obstacles that we must ensure negativity and cynicism don’t taint our life into a misleading direction. It’s through these obstacles that we must find gratitude and be thankful for what we have in this moment.

As we observe World Gratitude Day tomorrow, it’s important to understand what this day really means. Being able to express a genuine thankfulness to others and to yourself is an important aspect of life. Without it, we would be lost and unsure of where to head next. Gratitude is a multitude of things and boils down to living life as if everything were a true blessing and miracle. From being thankful to friends and family; acknowledging everything you receive in your day-to-day life; noticing simple pleasures like a sunset or a rainstorm that make you smile, and just being on a conscious level of how much you’ve been given in this life.

The day, which falls on September 21, initiated in 1977 by the United Nations Meditation Group is described as a “holiday for all peoples, a day of meditation for all religions, a day of celebration for all humanity, united by knowledge of simultaneously shared emotion, a day when triumph of the spirit can make a world community.”

With the way the world has been lately—wars, famine, indifference, and so much more, what’s there to be truly thankful for? It’s hard to feel fortunate when you lose your job, your home, your significant other, or face an illness, but it’s been proven that an ability to refocus your attention can help get you through the tough times. Being thankful and counting your blessings shifts focus from what your life lacks, to what you already have an abundance of. The fact that you can be thankful and truly mean it with the way the world has been, is in itself a small miracle.

With everything I’ve been through this past year, I’ve started to look at life differently. I’ve come to see every action as a blessing in disguise—some sort of saving grace, you might say. If something didn’t help me now, I know it will serve a purpose later as every difficulty in life carries within it the buds of greater benefits. As odd as it sounds, I am most thankful for every ounce of pain and heartbreak I’ve felt this past year because I’m learning more about life and my place in it through these challenges. Sure, things can get tough and incredibly hard, and you can’t see a way out of feeling sorry for yourself for losing that promotion; or disappointing a friend; or even not winning the heart of the one who broke yours. But if negativity has an appalling way of creating a void in your being, know that everything has a reason and purpose. Whether we understand it or not, know that showing compassion, helping others, and being thankful has its own reasons in your life and in the lives of others, and that it’s all in a perfect order.

While some see gratitude stemming from faith and religion, being thankful and expressing such an emotion can actually be a rather healthy quality too. Besides making people more resilient, it can improve your happiness and health. An article in the Wall Street Journal addressed the research in a 2010 study that indicated people who expressed gratitude were in fact, more happier and healthier because of the reduced stress they faced in their life. With the research being part of the “positive psychology” movement focusing on the development of strengths rather than alleviating disorders, many came to understand how changing thought patterns can affect moods, while cultivating gratitude as a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Additional research concluded that those who felt more grateful had more energy, were more optimistic, maintained more social connections, and were more content than those who did not practice thankfulness and gratitude.

Something I’ve noticed about being thankful to those I love and cherish is that it strengthens and affirms our relationships. By expressing gratitude, it not only shows us who we’ve been truly supported by in our times of despair, but makes you feel equally blessed that there are people out there who truly understand you and would stand by you—who would tolerate you for every thing you do.

I’ve seen a lack of gratitude from the little things my friends and family (and myself) might say or feel, and that sort of mindset can get toxic. Once you feed yourself a negative thought, there’s no turning back. It becomes a deep, dark void of nothing and leaves you feeling angry and upset. No matter what people believe, we can’t change our past or foresee our future, or even change the fact that some people will act in a certain way. The only thing we have total control over is the choice to embrace our life and attitude in that exact moment. You are the master of your domain. You are in charge of your life and the best way to grab a hold of it is by being thankful and expressing gratitude in the best way you know how.

When it comes to gratitude, there are several ways to express it.

  • Write in a gratitude journal, a concept used by Oprah but made famous by Sarah Breathnach’s 1996 book, “Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude“;
  • Write a letter, card, or note to family and friends, explaining and sharing what they each mean to you.
  • Practice mindfulness by being in the moment—meaning, don’t tweet about your best friend’s wedding, be at the wedding.
  • Meditate. This is a powerful way to deal with any mental anxieties or a general malaise you feel in your day-to-day life.
  • Take part and give your time to a charity or cause. By doing something for people you don’t know, you’re paying the kindness and gratitude forward to the next individual. It’s a circle of life!
  • Focus on intention. A perfect example of intention was this past month when iconic rock band, U2 gave everyone a free album via iTunes, but the majority of social media users were irritated and expressed how mad they were. Proof that when banded together on a social platform, how even the purest of intent intentions can become corrupt.
  • Some have morning-minute gratitude sessions expressing everything they were thankful for when waking up that day. This can be the best way to start your day!
  • And finally, just say “thank you”. Common courtesy is becoming non-existent and many don’t realize it, but there is great power in a simple “thank you”.

These are just a few ways, but know that there is no right or wrong way to express yourself. The only thing to keep in mind, is to express yourself with an open heart and never expect anything back.

In my own life and as I’m getting older, I’m realizing there’s a great unpredictability to living. When I was younger and would watch the news, I didn’t quite understand the world and why things happened. A lot of the things didn’t make sense, but now I understand how being grateful is a choice we are given in this life. Like everything else, we can make our own decisions and acknowledge the good, and be thankful for it. Gratitude is truly a practice that reminds you of your life and everything and everyone in it. I’m practicing more gratitude and showing my thankfulness to friends and family each day through little things, and it’s the little things that matter because they shape and influence every part of our lives and make all the difference.

While it’s celebrated once a year to help us shift attention from the negativism of life and remind us of what we should be grateful for, in reality, this day should be celebrated everyday. As a society, we need to practice gratitude daily because we tend to take for granted what we presently have, leaving us feeling empty and unhappy. We are living in a world where we continuously want more, and a lot of that has to deal with personal discontent. If we practice gratitude, we will be happier with our life and everything we’ve asked for would be helping us reach personal fulfillment. Despite the challenges we face, there is much to be thankful for if you can simply open your eyes. Once you adjust your mindset and look for things to be grateful for, you will find that you are more open to a deeper understanding of life, appreciate the simple pleasures it has to offer, and not take anything for granted.

Today, start bringing a thankful heart into your experiences. You will see all the difference.

What are you thankful for?

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2 Comments on “Celebrating World Gratitude Day: The Importance of a Thankful Heart”

  1. BarbCT September 21, 2016 at 12:39 pm #

    Reblogged this on Gallimaufry and commented:
    Today is World Gratitude Day. It’s a day to remember and be thankful for for all the good in this world despite the wars, hate, violence, starvation, and illness. This writer says it all so well.

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  1. Celebrating World Gratitude Day: The Importance of a Thankful Heart | westlifebunny - September 21, 2014

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