“Thank You”: The Magic Bullet for Happiness

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I sent my dad an email that made him respond, “Wow! I’ll get back to you…. Let me recover and respond.”

(A little backstory first)
Have you ever been told, “You need to appreciate how fortunate you are?” Probably. Most of us have.

Our reaction, or at least mine for too long, (sigh) “Yeah, I know. Now, move. You’re blocking the TV.” Why? Why do we, no matter how fortunate we are, seem to never really appreciate what we have?

I remember growing up and looking at the kids who had EVERYTHING with jealousy. They always had the newest gaming systems, gadgets, whatever… If I took any time to look at myself, I would realize that I was blessed with more support, love, and trinkets than 99% of other kids. Now, I don’t want to beat up my childhood self for not appreciating the breadth of my fortunes. Kids are irrational beings and can’t fully appreciate things, but I, who generally got whatever I asked for, should never have felt shortchanged.

Should we feel guilty for being more fortunate than others? For example, I was born into a wonderful family. I have a mind and body that does everything I ask it to. I have endless opportunities that so many people would kill for. I would consider myself an incredibly fortunate kid. But should I feel guilty that I was given these fortunes when so many haven’t?

My answer… No. I don’t feel guilty. A couple years ago, I may have actually felt jealousy for the people who literally have everything. Now, my overwhelming emotion toward the gifts I have been given is gratitude and responsibility.

I feel a sense of responsibility to make the most of what I was given. I think the way people feel guilty of receiving more in life than is when they are given a lot, but accomplish little. Everyone knows the kid who was blessed with incredible talent, but squanders it by partying, being lazy, or getting complacent. Those are the people who should feel guilty about being more fortunate. They had opportunities, but decided to waste them. Having a sense of purpose and responsibility will help you make the most of what you were given. However, if you only feel a sense of responsibility for being given more opportunities than others, you can come to resent those opportunities. You may view them as a burden. So it is even more important to be ruthlessly grateful for your fortunes.

With the overwhelming gratitude, I wrote down the list of things in my life I was grateful for. Was it my material possessions or my “social stature” that made me feel fortunate? No. I am grateful for the possessions I have, but what makes me feel the most fortunate… My friends and family who provide overwhelming support and guidance. I’ll spare you the extensive list of what I came up with, but this short exercise had many effects on my psyche:

1) Reiterated how fortunate I really am.
2) Put my life and my goals and desires into perspective.
3) Gave me a deeper affection for those around me, who I call my Support System.
4) Motivated me to fulfill my potential.

After writing down and reflecting on what I believe makes me fortunate, I decided to write an email to my dad, who, with my mom, has been the most supportive person in my life. I’m not going to include the entire thing because it was a personal expression of my gratitude, but I will give snippets of it to provide the general message.

“…It dawned on me that nobody has ever supported me like you have in my life… I have so many things to be thankful for in life… but i think the most important thing that I was given was a set of parents who facilitate my growth and development into someone who can make a difference in this world…So I thought it necessary to express how thankful and fortunate I am to have you and mama lay a foundation for the best support system in the world…So I want to say that I will forever be grateful for everything you have done for me and I couldn’t have ever asked to be blessed with a better father. So this was my thank you for everything you have and will continue to do to be a great father.

Love ya Pops

JMS”

He responded, “Wow! I’ll get back to you…. Let me recover and respond.”

The point is… Gratitude is more important than anybody thinks. No matter what, everyone has SOMETHING to feel grateful for. I want to urge everyone to take a moment every day, week, or month to really reflect on what you are grateful for. It’s easy to lose sight of what is really important in life, but connecting with what shaped you as a person can put things back in perspective.

My girlfriend texted me as I was writing this post asking for a little “pep talk.” I responded, first with a cheesy song that I was currently grooving to, then said:

“make a gratitude list. take 10 minutes to write down all the things you are grateful in your life. take your mind off medicine for a couple minutes, look at the bigger picture, and understand how lucky you are as an individual. it will fill your body with a wonderful feeling to continue throughout the day” I’m full of pearls of wisdom… I know.

She responded:
“You were right,” (which I LOVE hearing) “I feel better. Thank you.”

No matter how high or low you are feeling, you can take a couple of minutes to reflect on what you are grateful for in life. So I want to challenge you to take a moment in to yourself, think of the people, the environments, the opportunities, or anything that has gotten you to where you are. Attach an emotion to each one you think of, and reflect on what it truly means to you. Make this a habit and you will notice a more persistent feeling of well-being. I promise.

I would love to hear feedback and see how people respond. Subscribe to the blog. Share this post, comment, email me at jmsmith04@email.wm.edu . Any feedback, positive or negative, would be greatly appreciated. Saying thank you to the people that mean most or to the opportunities you have provide you with the emotional stability needed to grow and develop into a person of greatness.

-Josh

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