When I was growing up, my parents placed a lot of value on manners. Not manners like knowing which fork was the salad fork. We weren't that fancy. My brother and sisters and I grew up saying thank you and please. My mom tells stories about how perfect strangers would come up to them in restaurants and talk about how polite and well-behaved we were. While we were by no means perfect, we were polite and that has continued through this day.
As I go through my day-to-day activities, I've noticed that we've become less polite as a society. I’m not sure why. I don’t know if it’s the advent of technology or fewer face-to-face interactions we have with one another. I know that if I am working in a classroom handing out papers, only one-third to one-half of students will say thank you. I don’t know if it’s because they are not familiar with me or they have never been taught that “thank you” is an appropriate response when somebody does something for you. When you hold a door open for somebody, sometimes they say thank you.
Sometimes they just walk on through. While I have no studies to back me up on this, it’s my feeling that people don’t express feelings of gratitude as easily as they did in the past.
One of the things I've learned over the past couple of years is to be grateful for just about everything in my life. I would love to say I came to this conclusion on my own. I didn't. Several years ago, I realized I was not a happy person (ironic, no?). I was drinking too much. I snapped at my kids and husband and subscribed to the school of thought that said that if you expect the worst in life, you’ll never be disappointed.
In all of the articles and books I've read over the years, the act of appreciating people, places and events around you help you become a better person. About two years ago, I happened to see an interview with Oprah. I've always liked Oprah (it doesn't hurt that she and my youngest son share the same birthday). In this interview, she talked about how she has a gratitude journal that she writes in every day. In it, she writes down five things that she is grateful for even if it’s something as simple as breathing. It’s good to know that even Oprah has challenging days.
I gave it some thought and bought $1.00 notebook at Walmart. I started writing on May 13, 2012 and for the most part have continued this daily exercise. Focusing on what is so good in my life is a great way to begin every day. Celebrating happy events and accomplishments are obvious. I've also been grateful for the challenges that we've faced because with them come growth and opportunity. My journal always focuses me the positive attributes in people. I have visions of somebody digging through my hope chest after I leave this earth and finding my gratitude journals. I don’t want anybody reading anything that would make them feel bad about me or themselves.
I've built this exercise into my morning routine. Sometimes I forget to do it and that’s okay. I think I have my mind trained throughout the course of the day, to look for things to appreciate so I can include them in my journal the next morning. If that’s the only good that comes of it, that’s more than I could ask for.
We all have mechanisms for coping with the world. This particular exercise takes $1.00 and five minutes a day. It’s an amazing investment to make in yourself and in the world around you. If a whole journal seems daunting to you, leave one thing you’re grateful for in the comment section. See how good it feels to focus on the good things in your life. Let that be your Happy Fix today!
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