Expressing Gratitude is Important, Especially in 2020

Gratitude TreeA "gratitude" tree was displayed at LAGERS' office this week. Paper leaves and acorns were provided so we could write things about our co-workers that we are grateful for and attach them to the tree. This seemingly simple exercise has been one of the most impactful team-building experiences in my 17-year career here. It inspired me to write about gratitude and to encourage everyone to always be searching for the sweet lemonade and to discard the sour lemons. I am grateful for all of my co-workers, my employer, and to all the LAGERS members reading this right now. Have a great Thanksgiving!

Living life with a sense of gratitude is vital to maintaining mental well-being. It's no secret that focusing on positive aspects of our lives rather than dwelling on negatives reduces anxiety and stress. But this can be difficult. It is sometimes easier to identify the things that make us worry than those that make us feel joy. Then came 2020 and finding joy seems harder every day. How can we still be grateful when everything has been turned upside down?


If 2020 has taught us anything, it is to focus on what is most important. With closings, cancellations, and postponements, our lives, in one sense, have gotten much simpler. The extracurricular activities that consumed much of our time have been largely taken away and we are spending more time with those in our household. While this may not seem like anything to be grateful for, it reminds me of a psychological theory I learned about in high school. The theory organizes human needs starting with the most basic and most important, like food and water, and progressing to needs of self-fulfillment, like reaching your full potential. Using the first three (and most important) tiers of this theory as a guide, we can easily identify many things to be grateful for in 2020.

 

I am grateful for food, water, shelter, warmth, clothing, and sleep. 

The first level of human needs is the most important as it identifies what is needed for basic human survival. These are also the very things we most often take for granted even when there are plenty of people that aren't even afforded these essential needs.

 

I am grateful for my personal safety, employment, health, and financial security.

Uncertainty about our safety, health and finances can cause fear. But remember, fear is a belief about something that may or may not (most likely will not) happen in the future. It takes our minds off the present, which is in our control. The future is not in our control. If you are enjoying personal safety, employment, health, or financial security right now, be grateful, not afraid.

 

I am grateful for my family, friends, and for living in a wonderful community.

While you may have limited your face-to-face interactions with family and friends in 2020, modern technology has provided us with many ways to remain connected (something to be grateful for). Many of us have been juggling our jobs, home-schooling our kids, and parenting. It may be very hard to express gratitude for those living under your roof. But these are the most important people in your life, be grateful you are all still living under that roof.

This has been a long year. But in the grand scheme of life, this will be a spec, less than one chapter. Let's all be grateful for that too!

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