Gratitude by Lieutenant Colonel Theresa Bodnar

It is the holiday season. Many of us celebrated Thanksgiving last month and are celebrating various holidays (depending on your faith perspective) this month. Gratitude is at the hallmark of these annual celebrations, but is not (and shouldn’t be!) reserved for dedicated times of the year. Gratitude is a daily experience.

Gratitude. Appreciation. Thanks.
I’m grateful for you. I appreciate you. Thank you.
The synonyms and expressions of gratitude…so powerful, so simple, and yet so easily overlooked.

Gratitude is both a habit and an attitude.

As a young child, your parents are tucking you into bed, and you say a goodnight prayer.
You are sitting at the dinner table and before taking your first bite, you say a blessing over your food.
“What do you say?”, says your mother when your grandparents give you a gift card to your favorite store for Christmas. “Thank you”, you reply and give them a huge hug. You feel happy and grateful for the present; your grandparents are beaming with grand smiles, knowing you appreciate both the gift card and them; your parents feel pride that their son/daughter has such good manners.
Your game winning shot goes in the hoop or you get an “A” on that test you studied so hard for and your first thought is “Thank goodness!”

These are examples of setting a gratitude habit and when done regularly become a way you incorporate thankfulness as part of your daily routine. An attitude of gratitude is developed through practice.

Below is a poem I wrote about gratitude for you to consider.

Expressing gratitude
Improves you mood
Demonstrates a positive attitude
Is oh so good for you

Practicing gratitude results in
Less negative self-preoccupation
More optimism
More life satisfaction

It increases positivity
Decreases stress and anxiety
Enables savoring
Makes you a better “me”

Focusing on 3 to 5 things a day
No matter how exciting or mundane
Is a sure-fire way
To make you happier today
Or expressing your gratitude
To someone for something they do for you
Cultivates genuine appreciation
And develops more positive relations

There are 3 main things I want you to remember about gratitude, 2 of which I’ve already mentioned but are again being referenced and accompanied by writing exercises below to help you dive into the concepts a little deeper.

TB’s Top 3- About Gratitude

  1. First key point: GRATITUDE IS A HABIT THAT REQUIRES REGULAR PRACTICE. You need to exercise your mental gratitude muscles daily to train your brain to look for and see the positive around you. When you look for and appreciate the good in life, you are able to see more of it!A daily gratitude journal is an excellent way to further build your gratitude muscles. Each night before you go to sleep, write down 3 to 5 things you are grateful for. It can be something that happened during that particular day, something (in general) you are grateful for, it can be something big (like the game-winning shot) or small (like the cafeteria serving pizza for lunch). Write about that “thing” and how you contributed to it, and after writing it down, take a moment to savor how you feel.
  2. The second point I want you to remember about gratitude: GRATITUDE IS AN ATTITUDE. It is essentially a way of looking at life. You aren’t able to control a lot of things in life, but your attitude is something you CAN. A person who has an attitude of gratitude is able to see challenges as opportunities, mis-steps as learning experiences, and can appreciate the “small things”.Let’s practice having an attitude of gratitude. Reflect on a “mistake” you’ve recently made. What happened? What was your first thought about it? How did it make you feel? Be there for a minute. Now, imagine instead of seeing the event as a mistake, you see it as a blessing. Think about how going through that same experience can help you be a better person and learn more about life and about yourself. How do you feel now?
  3. The final thing I want you to remember about gratitude: EXPRESSING GRATITUDE BENEFITS NOT ONLY YOU BUT ALSO OTHERS AROUND YOU. When you express gratitude and appreciation to someone, you are investing in your relationship with him or her. You are letting them know they matter to you and that you don’t take them or what they do for you for granted. This makes them feel good, makes you feel good, makes you want to express gratitude more often, and makes them want to perform more acts of kindness. Win-win for everyone!So here’s your writing exercise on gratitude relational benefits: Write a gratitude letter to someone. Think about someone in your life who has recently done something nice for you. Write a short note thanking them for their action, sharing with them how it made you feel, letting them know why you appreciate them and their action(s), and then mail them or give them the letter.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this month’s article about gratitude. Always remember: you are blessed, abundance is all around you, and if you take the time to see and appreciate the good stuff, you will always have a winning attitude!

Theresa BodnerAbout the Author: Lieutenant Colonel Theresa BODNAR, Monthly Mentor, is a full time Soldier in the Army, a certified Army Master Resilience Trainer (MRT), a Positive Psychology Practitioner, Eating Psychology Educator, Author of Get UPP!: Understanding Positive Psychology, and an aspiring Motivational Speaker. She is excited to get to know you and share all sorts of positive psychology tools, inspirational blogs, and poetry with you. Read More…