Think Before You Thank

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One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life is never to forget to say “Thank You!”

When someone is generous and gives you a gift, a note to say they care, their time… When someone is helpful – shoveling your sidewalk, holding the door for you, or dropping off a meal when you’ve lost a loved one or are ill.

But sadly, two events happened last week that got me thinking not only about the importance and significance of saying THANK YOU, but what happens when people are left out.

The first eye-opener happened last Friday evening. I had accompanied a group of high school students I work with on a service project to help pack meals formulated for malnourished children in West Africa, and dozens of countries across the globe.

The teens I work with live in a neighborhood plagued by gang violence, unemployment and statistics that weigh heavily against them:  less than half of teenager’s graduate high school and only one-tenth advance to college.  Yet, twice a month, they volunteer their Wednesday or Friday nights to help other children across the world less fortunate than them. On most of these volunteer nights, they are joined by four or five other new groups of students – Boy Scout troops, basketball teams from neighboring high schools and church youth clubs.

On this evening, as it happened a few weeks before, the organizers of the relief organization gave a huge shout-out and round of applause to all of the teen groups who manned the almost two-hour packing shift, except for the 14 teens with me. As we were walking to the bus, one of the girls, a junior, said to me: “”Why don’t they ever cheer for us?” It seems like they don’t appreciate us.”

It stung the students. As the round of kudos were being called out, I watched their smiles waiting in anticipation of hearing their school name and the round of applause and then burst like a balloon in the silence. These are amazing kids who face amazing odds and are doing amazing things.  A thank you is a simple way to tell them.

The second event that underscored the “thank you don’ts” happened on Facebook. Who’s to say that virtual slights don’t cause the same pain as the up-close, in-person kind.

A “friend-of-a-friend” posted a lengthy thank you on Facebook naming a long list of people and specific acts of kindness they had done recently during her loved one’s hospital stay, but not mentioning someone who had been omnipresent with their support and caring during the several weeks involved. The omission rang off the FB post like a siren. I hurt for the person who wasn’t named, because I knew how hard she had tried to be present.

The bottom line is that saying thank you is an art. It is something we need to learn to do with grace, kindness and thoughtfulness. I’ve learned that if you are going to name names, it’s best to be 100 percent certain that you have been inclusive, because the name that isn’t said can inflict more harm than not saying thank you to all.

It’s important to acknowledge the generous spirits and kindness bestowed to us by others. It’s really a simple idea- people like to feel appreciated. This post asks that we think before we thank, just to be sure.

-Mary Beth Sammons

Listful Thinking: Is Gratitude on Your List?

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ListfulThinking_hiresI recently read Listful Thinking by Paula Rizzo and so much of it made me think about the importance of listing blessings when setting out on a grateful life journey, as well as the benefits that accrue when doing so.

According to the author, something as simple as creating a grocery list can reduce anxiety, boost your brain power, improve focus, increase self esteem and organize your thoughts.

Listful Thinking, which is divided into chapters that cover work, lifestyle, home life, and more, is chock-full of time saving apps and websites. Her tips and suggestions have a huge payoff — in addition to the grocery list benefits listed above, this book can help you save time and money. As someone who takes a lot of trips, I particularly loved Paula’s section on “Must-Have Items to Pack When You Travel”.

The other fact that resonated with me is that list making eliminates a lot of clutter in your thoughts, and frees you to focus on the larger picture. Which is exactly what thankfulness and appreciation does: it takes the focus away from thinking “what if”, “why me” or “what’s next” and helps one to arrive at a state of acceptance which frees up the mind for positive action.

Paula, an Emmy Award-winning television producer in New York City and founder of ListProducer.com, admits she has glazomania, a passion for making lists. She attributes her success to list making, and also includes other busy people like Madonna, Martha Stewart, Richard Branson, Ellen DeGeneres, and even Ben Franklin and Leonardo da Vinci in her list of list makers. Speaking of busy, she quotes a statistic from the Families and Work Institute which found that more than half all American employees feel overwhelmed.

Who wouldn’t want to replace that mentally-numb feeling, a result of “too much going on,” with a more productive mindset?

Paula writes, “Many people say they wish they could be more successful, have more money, be happier, and feel healthier–yet they can’t seem to achieve these things. They blame their bad luck, their busy lives, their limited resources…Being more successful in any area of your life isn’t about wishful thinking. It’s about listful thinking…Once you write down a goal, you instantly become accountable.”

We agree wholeheartedly that the act of writing something down is powerful! In our books, Living Life as a Thank You and The Grateful Life, we advise readers to write down the things that well that day, or to wake up and list a few things they are grateful for. Numerous scientific studies have shown that this activity can transform your health, outlook, and even help you live longer. Thank you Paula, for writing a book that gives sound, solid advice that can help people turn their lives around.

What other books do you find helpful to keep your lives on track?

Nina Lesowitz

Give Yourself a Gratitude Reboot!

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Give Yourself a Gratitude Reboot!

With the New Year just days away, instead of resolving to change our bad habits – eat less, exercise more and stop stressing out, we suggest a gratitude makeover.

It turns out that by integrating gratitude into your every day you actually will be healthier, more deeply spiritual and lead a more abundant life. And you will be so much happier! Consider this about grateful people:

  • Grateful people have 10 percent fewer stress-related illnesses.
  • They are more physically fit.
  • Their blood pressure is lower by 12 percent.
  • Every 10 years you practice gratitude adds five years to your life.

How do you reboot your life with gratitude?  We offer these 3 ways grateful people we talked to for this book did exactly that. We’re inspired by their practices and hope you will find them transforming too.

  1. Falling Asleep, Gratefully.

Before bed each night, Holly takes time to review her day and to review the gifts she has received. It’s a practice she started to stave off the insomnia and middle-of-the-night awakenings when she couldn’t get herself back to sleep. Instead of tossing and turning, she starts with the letter, “A” and thinks of something she is grateful for. To do this, proceed through the alphabet with “B,” “C,” etc. “Regardless of our evaluation of the day – good, bad, mediocre – we can call forth the blessings that were present. This practice transforms our consciousness as it reveals at the heart of our lives,” according to the DailyOm.com.

2. Feel the Gratitude Burn.

Try incorporating gratitude as a first step in an exercise program. While you are lacing up your running shoes for a trip to the gym or to ride your bike, or head to a spin class, give thanks for your feet, your legs, the tendons that connect them, and the bones that give them structure. Thank yourself for taking care of your body, and acknowledging that saying “thanks” in a form of exercise too – one that has just as many health dividends as your workout!

3. Getting to the Soul of Your Gratitude.

Bring to mind a time when you felt very grateful. You may have received good news about a friend or family member, or perhaps you were surprised by a wonderful gift from someone you care about. Relive that experience as if it is happening now. Notice feelings and physical sensations as you vividly recall this experience of gratitude. Experience this from your head to your toes for two to four minutes, or as long as you would like. Then let go of this memory, but continue to relax into the positive sensations that feeling grateful evokes in you. At various points throughout every day, take a minute or two to bring this experience into your awareness. This will help you have many bright moments on the days you do this practice.

Happy New Year! We hope you will draw inspiration from these simple gratitude practices and find 2015 filled with blessings!

The Meaning of Life

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Paku PakuWe love to collect new ideas that come to us from readers on what seems like a weekly basis.

We received several months’ worth of ideas from a  radio host when she interviewed us on her Energy Awareness Radio show. T Love, owner of Quantum Wellness Center in Andover Township, New Jersey is an accomplished energy therapist, certified sound therapist, and applied positive psychology practitioner as well as an international keynote speaker and a contributing editor for various magazines.

T Love shared some of her grateful living innovations. A few highlights: A “Gratitude Challenge” scholarship endowment fundraiser for the Sussex County, NJ Chamber of Commerce where T Love serves on the Board of Trustees, co-chairs the Wellness Committee, and is a member of the Women in Business Committee. The participants were asked to pen thank you notes on a daily, weekly or monthly basis throughout the year. “All notes must be handwritten, include the words thank you, and specify why the recipient is being thanked,” she told us. “Part of this challenge is to think, feel and take the time to write the note. Post-it notes count too: ‘Thank you, Irving. I couldn’t have completed the proposal without your help. – Eugene’.”

Participants were asked to pay a one-time fee based upon their chosen challenge. “As an added incentive, each participant was entered into a drawing as many times as the notes in the challenge they took on,” she explained. “For instance, if someone opted for the one-note-a-month challenge they had 12 chances to win and if someone chose the one-note-a-day challenge, they had 365 chances to win!”

This is the perfect example of a win-win for all concerned – a “fun-raiser” at its best: educating members about the benefits of gratitude, raising funds for children in need, and providing a year’s worth of themes for the organization to rally around.

She told us another story – a very powerful story – about speaking to children on the topic of gratitude at an event sponsored by the non-profit group Pass It Along. When the children, ages 13 – 19 entered the room they had no idea what she was going to speak about. She told them she was there to tell them the secret of life. She asked if they knew what it was. Lots of great answers poured forth: marriage, love, sympathy, empathy, joy, happiness, etc.

Then she told them what it was: GRATITUDE.

She gave examples they could relate to, did a meditation, and demonstrated how to use the Paku Paku or Fortune Teller (photo above). The next night she got a call from the president of Pass It Along who told her that hers was the most popular and liked workshop.

According to T Love, “I was so grateful to have done those workshops. I didn’t know how it would go over and I was so unsure afterward. Somehow though, the kids GOT it.” We love the idea of T Love’s Paku Paku and her Gratitude Challenge for businesspeople.

If you would like more information about making your own Fortune Teller, leave a comment below. Or let us know about any other ways you have taught the concept of gratitude to children. You can listen to our interview on her radio show here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/energyawareness/2014/12/03/the-grateful-life-the-secret-to-happiness-and-the-science-of-contentment Thank you T Love!

A Global Celebration of Gratitude

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Sunday, September 21 is World Gratitude Day and there are numerous activities planned to mark the occasion including the world’s very first Gratitude Parade and Rally in Cambridge, MA. Musical events, meditations, and other observances will take place around the planet, all in the spirit of peace and appreciation for our global blessings.

The official beginning of World Gratitude Day was in 1965 at the East-West Center in Hawaii at a Thanksgiving dinner honoring grantees hosted by Sri Chinmoy, a meditation guru.  As director of the United Nations Meditation Group, he suggested the idea as a globally unifying holiday.  Each person pledged to hold a gratitude gathering each September 21 in their own country. The United Nations Meditation Group formally celebrated World Gratitude Day on September 21, 1977 at the New York Headquarters.

Everyone can join in the celebrations. It can be as simple as dedicating your day to someone, or lighting a candle while you acknowledge the things you appreciate in your life. Doing so will make a big difference in your life and in the lives of those around you!

Despite the challenges taking place today in the world, there is much to be thankful for. Think about who can you thank on World Gratitude Day for the positive impact they have had on your life. How do you plan to show your gratitude?

5 Ways You Can Cultivate Gratitude at Work

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“People want to be appreciated, not impressed. They want to be regarded as human beings, not as mere sounding boards for other people’s egos. They want to be treated as an end in themselves, not as a means toward the gratification of another’s vanity”. —Sydney J. Harris

Imagine if you woke one morning to a text on your smart phone from your boss thanking you with a big “Wow, that was great” for the work you did the day before?

Unfortunately, people are less likely to express gratitude at work than anyplace else, according to a survey of 2,000 Americans released in 2013 by the John Templeton Foundation.

The good news: times are a changing, and increasingly bosses, co-workers and those on the front lines of corporate America are starting to pay attention to the science that tells us grateful people are typically happier people. Being grateful makes us smile more, and makes us more optimistic and reduces negativity, and those are huge reasons to make gratitude a daily habit at work too.

We applaud an article this week in Entrepreneur.com. It calls on us to try to thank to think about what you’re thankful for at least once a day on the job, and offers five tips for weaving a gratefulness practice into the workplace:

In light of small successes and simple acts of kindness, here are five ways to show gratitude every day:

  1. Write in an abundance journal.Purchase a small notebook and keep it in your briefcase, purse or on your bedside table. Take a few minutes each day to jot down one or two positive experiences, or, alternatively, write what you’re grateful for at the end of each week.
  2. Express your gratitude in person.When a friend, colleague or client goes above and beyond, be sure to state your appreciation. Go to their office or treat them to lunch or a quick cup of coffee.
  3. Show respect for those around you.Treat others with the same level of courtesy you expect to receive: smile, show kindness, exhibit patience and listen.
  4. Don’t complain.When something terrible happens, it’s natural to want to complain about it. You may become impatient with someone in line who takes too long to pay or moan to an employee about a difficult client. You may even complain to yourself when a driver cuts you off in traffic.
  5. Volunteer in your community.There’s a well-known secret among long-time gratitude practitioners that an act of kindness does more good for you than those you’re serving.

Certainly finding ways to honor ourselves and be grateful for those who share our workdays with us can go a long way in helping us feel better, more powerful and have a strong impact on our relationships with others – at work and home too!

What ways have you found to practice gratitude at work? We’d love for you to share.