One of the things we say about Cook It Up and Ready For Retail is that both programs are underpinned by what we call “a gratitude platform.” In other words, we don’t just want to teach food service or retail skills and customer service. We want people to appreciate their unique abilities and experiences, to look for the positives in their lives, to believe that this community wants them to succeed, and ultimately to become a positive role model for others.
As a society we tend to focus on what’s wrong, not what’s right … our news is full of stories of doom and gloom. It can be really difficult to think of things you are grateful for when everything in your life seems to be going wrong. Or when we really don’t want to go to the grocery store because inevitably we are going to be stuck with the cashier or behind the person who always complains about everything.
Often we tend to take for granted the good that is already present in our lives. Imagine losing some of the things that you take for granted:
• your ability to walk
• your ability to speak
• your best friend
• your wallet/purse with all your cash, credit cards and ID
• the use of your right hand
Then imagine getting each of these things back, one by one, and consider how grateful you would be for each and every one.
Or let’s look at some smaller things. Imagine that you have your arms full of stuff and someone runs and opens the door for you. Or that you are absolutely famished but your forgot your lunch and you don’t have much money then you see a sign that says “Hot lunch free today.” Or that a friend told you how much your encouragement and support meant to him. Or that your 3 year old daughter brought you a bouquet of slightly wilted daisies.
Dr. Robert Emmons is a professor and researcher who has focused on how gratitude and thankfulness are related to human flourishing. “To say we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is necessarily great. It just means we are aware of our blessings.”
Countless research studies show that finding a bit of thankfulness each day can actually increase our happiness level and decrease depression. It increases physical health, brain function, and a sense of fulfillment. In our programs we encourage the trainees to develop that “attitude of gratitude.” To make it a habit to express appreciation for all different parts of life, no matter how small.
“If you concentrate on what you have, you’ll always have more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you’ll never have enough.” – Lewis Howes
I believe that what you focus on you get more of. If you focus on what you don’t like, don’t want or fear most … guess what? You’ll be noticing things that shore up that hypothesis. If you focus on what you appreciate, are grateful for, and want in your life … you’ll notice the things that prove that mindset – in other words, you’ll be attracting those.
So how do we develop an Attitude of Gratitude?
- Count Your Blessings: It’s important not to just think about them in your head, but actually write them down. And remember, gratitude is not about a comparison with others nor is it an acknowledgement that other people are worse off than you. Gratitude requires an appreciation of the positive aspects of your own life, even the smallest things. (if you are struggling to think of them try an A-B-C List, using the alphabet as a guide. Go down each letter and come up with a blessing for each one.
A- animals – I really love my dog who runs to greet me when I get home … she gives me unconditional love.
B- bed – my bed is so comfortable and warm … I love snugging under the covers.
C- chocolate – my friend gave me a piece of chocolate cake … it was sooo delicious!
- Three Things: Find at least three things you are grateful for each day. Do not repeat – each day choose something different. Begin in the morning to look for things to appreciate and make a note for later, or email yourself.
- If it’s easier, get a Gratitude Buddy. If you think you’ll need some motivation, choose someone to do the 45 days with. Every day email each other your list. It’s inspiring and even when you’re tired and inclined to skip the day, it keeps you both accountable.
- Be Grateful for Yourself: Quit comparing yourself to your sister, or the neighbour, or anyone. Recognize all the unique things that make you you!
One of the most amazing guys I knew didn’t have much money ever, but he had the unique talent of caring. One day he was driving along and saw a fox that had barbed wire wrapped around its paw – he got out of his truck, went over, unwound the wire …without the fox even biting him. As he stood there, the fox ran off a ways, then turned, sat, and lifted his sore paw. Then took off. But what a gift!
Another time a car was pulled over by the end of his driveway and when he went to see if he could help, the woman clearly had been crying. He talked to her for two hours, and eventually took her to see her doctor. You see as it turned out, she’d been going to commit suicide, had a plan, and had just stopped to get the pills out of her purse. This was a guy who often thought of himself as a failure because he didn’t make lots of money. But what a difference he made! Start to recognize those small gestures in your own selves, your gifts and talents. It will help you recognize them in others.
- Acknowledge other people and thank them for inspiring/ helping/ supporting you. We tend to talk to other people about the teachers, friends or mentors who have inspired us, but often forget to tell them how much what they did or said meant. What a difference it makes to be acknowledged. So don’t wait – text, write, call or visit the special people who helped you along the way.
When we train ourselves to look at life through the lens of gratitude rather than disappointment, we find ourselves happier and more at peace. There is so much to be grateful for if we just learn to look for it.
Gratitude isn’t an emotion that is reserved for those moments when you get what you want. When things go wrong you can also use the power of gratitude. I know that’s a tough one, but truly every difficulty carries within it the seeds of an equal or greater benefit. It may be a learning lesson. It may be an opportunity. It may simply be that when you know what you don’t want, it helps clarify what you do want. When faced with a problem or issue, ask yourself the following questions:
“What’s good about this?”
“What can I learn from this?”
“How can I benefit from this?”
“Is there something about this situation that I can be grateful for?”
Gratitude has physical benefits as well. Research from all over the world shows that people who are grateful:
have stronger immune systems.
are less bothered by aches and pains
have lower blood pressure
have lower stress levels.
The bottom line is, if you want better health, focus on the things you’re grateful for. The small things are just as important as the big achievements. You can feel grateful for a hot cup of coffee. The spring peepers. The wind in the trees. A smile from a stranger. Being aware of what you are grateful for, every single day, will change your life!
~ Gena Robertson, SIRCH Executive Director