Choose gratitude


I admit it.

I've probably been thinking more about what I'm grateful for these days because Thanksgiving is just days away. Unlike previous years, I have no idea what we are doing to mark the day. My family will be all across the country. If weather holds out, we may load up the Mini Cooper and head up north to Canada and explore that part of the Northeast. 

We also may stay home and spend Thanksgiving with friends in Boston (I've recently learned that's called Friendsgiving). I'm secretly voting for that so that I can spend some time in the kitchen whipping up a meal with some of our good friends in Beantown... I do love cooking, especially when it requires multiple courses and timing everything out so it is all served hot. 

Chef Alton Brown I try to be.

But as I zipped down the coast yesterday on Amtrak toward New York City for a meeting on this beautiful fall morning, and spent a few minutes (okay maybe longer) on Facebook seeing what friends were up to, this article from The New York Times popped up on my feed (thanks Erica Rieder and Heather Border for sharing it). 

"Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier." Read the full column by Arthur Brooks here

There's three important points: 

  1. Be grateful privately. 
  2. Express gratitude publicly. 
  3. Be grateful for useless things. 

On point one, I find this to be particularly important. The practice has reminded me not just what I have to be grateful for (a lot), but also that there are a lot of wonderful, good, kind people all around us who contribute to my life. Even more importantly, these people are a force for good all over the world. By taking a few moments throughout the day to choose gratitude, I'm finding new balance--and new happiness--in so many different aspects of life, both personally and professionally. Try it. 

A few months back, I received a thank you note in the mail unexpectedly. And it reminded me that I probably don't take time to do that enough--to say thank you, through words spoken or written, to those who contribute so much to my life personally and professionally. So I marched down to the little paper store on Charles Street in Boston, stocked up on notecards, and have sought to make this more of a weekly practice.

I'm not talking about just thank you's for the bottle of wine, or the birthday gifts. I'm talking about thank you's for being part of my life. For challenging me. For accepting me. For encouraging me. Supporting me. For listening. Advising. Mentoring. I think being grateful publicly can be as simple as a note, or heck, even something as public as a blog. So, in that spirit: 

  • Thank you, Dima, for keeping life light when it sometimes can feel heavy. For being okay with the travel schedule. For eating the cod that tasted too fishy last week when I tried out a new recipe. 
  • Thank you, mom and dad, for listening and advising. For parenting even though I'm a grown adult. 
  • Thank you, coworkers and colleagues, for making my work joyful. To love what you do, and to get to do that alongside good people who also want to do good things, is something I will always be grateful for. 
  • Thank you, friends, for creating a community of people that I am so lucky to have, in Boston, NYC, South Dakota, Iowa, and many places in between. The diversity of perspective and experience, and the genuine kindness you show toward me and our communities, is something I cherish. I'm not sure how I got so lucky. 

Then there's the useless things. Hm. My iPhone charger comes to mind. So does my ridiculous Dr. Dre headphones that block out all sounds on the planes and trains. Orange shoelaces in my shoes. New Warby Parker eyeglasses that add character. Yellow Moleskin notebooks. My Boston Red Sox baseball cap. Sea salt on a nice piece of fish. Could I do without most of these things? Yes. Do they make me happy? Yes. 

So today, join me in spreading gratitude. Join me in taking a few moments each day to "notice what we notice" (as my graduate school Alexander Technique professor would say every morning)--to give thanks quietly, and express it publicly. And to do it every day... and not just on this week of Thanksgiving. 

I bet it is a path toward peace. And a more equitable world for all.