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How to create a culture of gratitude

The world let out a collective sigh of relief when the clock struck midnight on the first of January this year, and we were finally rid of 2020, the year that took an unexpected turn to disappointment, missed milestones, social aggravation, and restrictions on a global level. But even though 2020 was over, the pandemic didn’t seem to get the memo and has seeped into 2021.

As we find ourselves still struggling with lockdowns, curfews, and being separated from friends and loved ones, it’s easy to let our moods sink into a puddle of self-pity. This is why now is the perfect time to change your attitude with a little bit of gratitude.

Think about how saying “thank you” to someone is a free and beautiful act that creates a ripple effect of positivity for that person, and for yourself. When you thank someone, it’s a confirmation of a deep human truth: we all depend on each other and are connected to a wider web of life constructed out of acts of giving.

If you feel too shy to vocalize your gratitude to people, try this exercise to flex your attitude of gratitude: When you sit down to eat, imagine the details of how all the aspects of your meal ended up on your plate. Include the hands that planted the veggies, the people who harvested the grain for your rice, the truck driver that transported produce to your grocery store, and the employees who arranged the ingredients neatly on shelves.

You may never meet these people or know their names, and they may never know you either, but they are people just like you, working hard to support themselves and their loved ones. Extend your thanks to them in your head until you’re comfortable enough to start thanking people in your life out loud.

Breaking the gratitude ice can be difficult. To give thanks, you must be comfortable acknowledging that you have received something. Maybe this acknowledgment makes you feel indebted, needy, or simply embarrassed. These feelings are normal but be careful not to let them get in the way of expressing and experiencing gratitude.

Now is a good time to reframe how you think about everything you may have missed because of the pandemic. On one hand, being sad about ruined plans and missed opportunities is natural, but on the other hand, through absence, we are made aware of certain people and what they add to our lives. Reflect on what these people have done for you and why you want to express gratitude to them.

Then, when you are ready, send them a note or give them a call to simply say “thank-you”. You just might be giving them the chance they need to return thanks to you, creating an uplifting culture of gratitude when we need it most. 

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