As the holiday season approaches, it’s natural for us to feel a heightened sense of gratitude for the things we have in abundance. Yet, we still find ourselves on a regular basis focusing on the things we can’t control or change. We are quick to be self-critical, pointing out our own flaws and weaknesses. In this, we are overlooking the beauty of remaining present in the process, missing opportunities for happiness, connection, and reflection.
Recently, during an evening of momentary wallowing in my own self-pity around the prospect of my evening workload, grading papers, responding to emails, and preparing for meetings, I opened up my laptop to the following email from a former student:
Dear Mr. Singleton,
As I’m getting into the routine of my sophomore year, I’m starting to do really well and genuinely have fun in my chemistry class. This is a direct result from your class in 8th grade. Day after day, my current chemistry class at Dexter is going over things that you have already taught me. I would like to take the time to say thank you, not only for being an amazing teacher, but also for being a positive influence on me during my time at Fessy. It feels like just yesterday that Louis and I were joking about your Fresh Prince socks, while balancing chemical equations and learning science skills we never thought we’d be able to master. I hope everything is well with you. During the upcoming lacrosse or hockey seasons, I’ll let you know if I have any games at Berwick since I would love to catch up. Once again, thank you for all that you’ve done to make me a better student and person!
Your favorite student,
At that moment, I came to realize that Wes’s act of gratitude completely altered my emotional, psychological, and physiological well-being that evening. I immediately felt more assured, more positive, more happy, more appreciative, more alive, and more focused on the present. Gratitude acts as an internal moral compass, allowing us to feel and assess the authenticity of each “gift” we receive and, in turn, inspiring us to pay it forward. The act of gratitude requires no monetary currency, nor does it require much effort, but its impact is exponential and reciprocal.According to the Greater Good Magazine, the act of gratitude can have the following long-term benefits for you and the recipient:
A few years ago, former talk show host Oprah Winfrey hosted a series of Oprah's LifeClass sessions focused on cultivating gratitude in our daily lives, bringing together a panel of life coach experts to define, encourage, and guide this important practice in more depth. Below are some of the insightful takeaways from their exploration:
Iyanla Vanzant, Inspirational Speaker and Life Coach
“One way to connect to gratitude is to pay attention to how you respond to life experiences that cause pain. PAIN – Pay Attention Inward Now. Understand that life is going to “stop” in different places, and be grateful for every “stop” along the way. Life will “stop” in grief, sorrow, sadness, excitement, enthusiasm, etc. and each stop will teach us something that we need to know for getting to the ultimate end to the journey. It’s all about the way you tell your story.”
Tony Robbins, Entrepreneur and Life Coach
“Gratitude is the most important emotional of all. Gratitude is the antidote to the two things that stop us which are fear and anger. Fear is why we don’t take action and anger is why we get stuck. You can’t be grateful and fearful/angry at the same time. Gratitude is the ‘reset’ button; the cleanser of the soul.”
Deepak Chopra, Founder of The Chopra Foundation of Well-Being
“Gratitude is the ultimate spiritual solution. Gratitude can heal heartache and pain. It can change your consciousness and allow you to see your life as a gift.”
As I close this letter, I invite you and your family to explore the powerful film project entitled, Gratitude Revealed, by world-renowned photographer and filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg. The project “explores what gratitude is, why it’s important and what we can all do to live more gracious lives,” through the beautiful and serene lens of nature.