By Valentina Alfaro E., Program Coordinator.
It is November, and as we approach the holiday season, gratitude is in the air. For myself, it seems that I can’t always find the right words to describe how gratitude feels. But, during moments of reflection, I can’t help but feel thankful for the people in my life that have stood by my side in both good times and bad times. Even if I can’t find the perfect words, I know is that it feels gooooooood.
I want to ask you to do something for me. I would like you to pretend that today is the day for celebrating all that we are thankful for. Please take some time to think about what you have accomplished and what you have received. Think about what you would like to say to everyone to whom you owe a debt of gratitude. Think about all the “thank you’s” and the “I appreciate you’s” and the “you made a difference to me’s.” How do you feel? Happy, rejuvenated, humble? Wouldn’t it be nice to feel like this more often?
In the science of well-being, gratitude is defined as a positive emotional state in which one recognizes and appreciates what one has received in life. Research shows that taking time to experience gratitude can make you both happier and healthier. The simple act of showing gratitude has a host of positive benefits. Experiencing gratitude can increase your mood and lower your stress levels. It can strengthen your immune system and lower your blood pressure. Experiencing gratitude can also help you to feel a stronger social connection, which itself lends to a litany of additional positive benefits.
Of course, that’s great news. It also begs the question: how can I experience gratitude regularly, both for myself and for others? In a world where we face more and more challenges every day, it can feel like our hearts are shrinking a bit each time we read the news or learn about world events. Feeling grateful is not always the most instinctual reaction. Nevertheless, it is worth trying, not just for yourself, but for your friends and your family. When taking the time to show gratitude, everyone benefits. And like any habit, it gets easier with each repeated use.
At Silver Lining Mentoring, gratitude is one of our five core values. Working here has led me to be even more reflective of my own life. Brought in to plain view is my good fortune: that I have always had someone who believed in me and stood by me as I followed my dreams from my hometown of Valdivia, Chile all the way to Boston. Working here has made me increasingly aware of how much of a difference having that one person there for you can make in terms of your self-perception, confidence, and happiness. As a Program Coordinator, I have seen both sides: what it looks like to not have someone, but more importantly, how things can change when you do. I feel grateful to our incredible volunteer mentors who help our young people experience that change.
My invitation to everyone is to take time to be grateful more often, to spend a few moments appreciating what we have and who we have in our lives, and to not take those loved ones for granted. Let’s all feel that wonderful, indescribable feeling of gratitude each and every day.