Feeling Stressed? Pause to be Grateful!
By Ebony Tyler
Gratitude often reveals itself to me at the most unexpected times. Every time this happens, I cannot help but recognize how it shouldn’t have taken me so long to reflect on how grateful I am for different aspects of my life and, most importantly, the people with whom I get to share my life. I chide myself for not being more intentional about practicing gratitude, and I may even spend a few minutes considering how I’ll be more thoughtful. Then, life happens. The sentiment passes and I don’t pause to really contemplate being grateful as much as I should.
When I reflect on the times when I expressly practice gratitude, however, I have noticed a connection to how important those moments have been in maintaining my peace of mind, restoring my overall mindset, and recentering me on what is most important. Subsequently, I am left imagining how different our lives could be, and how much better our organizations and communities could be served if we really understood the importance of gratitude.
To be fair, it’s easy to understand why gratefulness is so often discounted. On a daily basis, we’re asked to balance a multitude of personal and professional obligations; honestly, it can be difficult to lean into gratitude when you’re simply attempting to manage it all. However, it’s during the busy times or when we feel most overburdened that we should be especially intentional in allowing ourselves to pause and recognize how much we need gratitude in our lives.
Being grateful has been shown to serve as a protective measure in maintaining a healthy and positive mindset by supporting us in managing life stresses and reminding us how we have coped with difficult situations in the past. It’s clear that having the capacity to practice gratitude is not something we should reserve for the months of November and December, or other stressful times of the year. While it’s particularly important to practice gratitude during challenging times, we should cultivate this habit on a regular basis.
Although gratitude is important to express on a personal basis, we should also recognize the power it can have on our relationships and friendships. Sharing moments of gratitude allows the opportunity to better connect with people, with organizations, and with the communities we serve. In an environment that often feels divisive, one of the most beautiful aspects of gratitude is its ability to enhance our relationships, build new friendships and increase our feelings of belonging, empathy, and responsibility to others.
With all the literature encouraging us to be grateful, there seems to be a disconnect on why it is important. We fail to recognize the real risks to our personal well being, our communities, and our society when we don’t practice gratitude.
Over the next few weeks, I would encourage you to take some time to consider this last point and to be intentional about creating space to be…and to be grateful. If you’re uncertain where to start, MLT Ascend Coach Shanita Liu has written an insightful article on how to get started. Read more here!
Ebony Tyler is the Manager of MLT Ascend, a college success and career readiness program for first-generation and low-income college students.