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

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!