Get on the gratitude grind


Amanda Swartz, Editor-in-Chief

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. In some houses, people go around the table saying what they are grateful for. My suggestion? Don’t make practicing gratitude an annual occurrence. According to a Harvard University study, “giving thanks can make you happier,” and findings suggest “that gratitude is an attainment associated with emotional maturity.”

Let’s face it. There’s a lot on students’ plates: homework, quizzes, tests, essays, athletics, theater, dance, college applications, and mental wellbeing… you name it. Going into my senior year, I met with my rabbi Steve Leder. I told him about my frequent anxiety, especially in relation to the news. I always knew that tragedy sells, but I hadn’t thought about it on a pendulum scale.

Rabbi Leder responded thoughtfully… in the way he always does. He said, “I believe that more good things happen in a day than bad.” I made a face. “No! Really,” he said, “think of how many things run the way they are supposed to daily.” I thought about this, and I continue to remember many of the things that work just the way they are supposed to, and I find comfort in it.

When I ask people what they are grateful for, I explain that gratitude does not have to be for monumental, extraordinary things like getting into your dream school or mastering a piece on the piano. In fact, I think gratitude makes my days better when I think about seemingly small, beautiful things. How I usually put it is. “Take this, I’m extremely grateful for ballpoint pens. I like the way they write. They’re not too inky, and just smooth enough. Writing with a ballpoint pen subtly makes doing my work better.” If writing instruments aren’t your jam, food is usually a good way to get started on the gratitude grind too.

Giving thanks forces us to step out of what Brené Brown calls “scarcity culture.” Dr. Brown believes that we live in a time when nothing is ever “blank” enough: not skinny, wealthy, smart, pretty, successful, or strong enough. One of my favorite of her quotes about scarcity is the following: “We wake up in the morning and we say, ‘I didn’t get enough sleep.’ And we hit the pillow saying, ‘I didn’t get enough done.’” She says, “For me, the opposite of scarcity is not abundance. It’s enough. I’m enough.” Call it cheesy, call it whatever you want, but giving yourself a raincheck for being extraordinary is a breath of fresh air, and, in my opinion, completely necessary.

Today, it is “enough” for me to be happy when I have gratitude for the following: 1) My body is functioning, and I’m not ill. 2) The Viewpoint security guards are kind and keep our school safe. 2) Kitchen’s Kitchen is stocked on coconut water, and that drink improves my quality of life. 3) The clouds were so beautiful, and I felt like my playlist completely matched my mood. 4) My favorite sweatshirt smells like laundry detergent (don’t judge!) 5) Dr. Chon’s classroom exists on campus, which is my anxiety-relief sanctuary. Listing these five things that all happen to be pretty expected and typical puts the “not-so-good-stuff” into perspective.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I encourage you to think about the small things and the big, of course. Maybe even write it out or go up to a person who positively affects you and express your gratitude. It could go a long way for them, and I believe it will go a long way for you.