November is a time of many things: taking down your Halloween decorations, putting up your Christmas decorations, celebrating Thanksgiving and much more. This month is often associated with Thanksgiving — a time for when we give thanks — but November is also National Gratitude Month. While many people use the terms “thankful” and “grateful” synonymously, they actually mean two different things: Being grateful is an action that is generated by outside forces, while being thankful is a feeling generated by yourself that implies a “giver and receiver” attitude.
As a facilitator for the “Happiness Advantage” DeCal, a class on positive psychology, my favorite lesson I teach is centered on gratitude. I think that while gratitude is something we feel unconsciously, we can make a difference when we start to actively think about it. Some days, I think I have had an awful day, but after re-evaluating, only one bad thing had happened, and I milked the crap out of it all day long. Even on our worst days, there’s always something to be grateful for.
Every night before I go to bed, I write down three things that I’m grateful for that day. It sounds simple enough, but the impact is powerful. I didn’t start thinking about gratitude until I returned from a trip from India a couple years ago. I think there were many things I took for granted before I went on the trip. There were things such as turning on the faucet and knowing there would be fresh water, having a fridge full of food, a roof over my head or even the ability to go to UC Berkeley. Although school is stressful, I have learned to be very grateful for the opportunity to pursue higher education in the first place and attend a prestigious university with insanely passionate students. These seemingly mundane aspects of our lives are often taken for granted. But what would happen if you started actively thinking about them?
I challenge you to take on actively expressing gratitude. You can buy a fancy journal like me or just take a random notebook and jot down three things you’re grateful for every day before you go to bed. And before you know it, you’ll start to appreciate everything in your life, from the big to the little things. Will being grateful solve all of your problems? No — but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
Contact Allison Fong at [email protected].