Thanksgiving has already rolled by, but I believe that gratitude is a feeling we should cultivate all year long.
As a college student, it’s easy to get caught up in a busy life — a whirl of homework, midterms, more work and FOMO. Verbally saying “thank you” is a golden rule we all learn in kindergarten, but as we get older, we often forget to show our gratitude to our family back home and the friends we have made here at Stanford.
As a freshman, I came into college after nearly three full months of a leisure-filled summer break — I did not see the fast lane coming my way when I moved onto campus in late September. My pace of life became ten times faster than what I had grown used to in the summer, and after a month, the routine of class, eat, sleep, repeat became monotonous.
“Your days are long, but your years are short.” I was at a panel of older students when this quote struck me. I realized then that I could either mope about the abundance of hard work I had coming in the days to come or I could take a step back and reflect about the abundance of things to be thankful for, to look forward to from this point and beyond into the next four years. With the intention of simply trying to be happier, I began a self-conscious journey of gradually shifting my mindset to live in the present instead of dwelling in the past or even the future, something I continue to work on every day.
Quickly, I learned that being more grateful for everything that came my way — new people, a breadth of knowledge, beautiful campus views and the flowers I bike past — allowed me to feel a sense of belonging and peace with the world around me. In fact, numerous studies focusing on human psychology have demonstrated that gratitude is strongly associated with greater happiness. Whether or not you choose to believe these results, it’s important to recognize that seeking a positive attitude will gradually enable you to have more positive encounters.
Maybe the quest for happiness can seem a little extreme, but the cultivation of gratitude in our everyday lives is a simple and easy way to start. Here are a few ways you can express and spread your grateful thoughts:
- Snail Mail:
Maybe you haven’t talked to some of your friends back home. Send them a piece of your love and thank them for the valuable friendship you share — old-fashioned style.
- Homemade Gifts:
Whenever you hand-make a gift, such as calligraphy, baked cookies or a decorated card, you are showing your true appreciation for that special person, which, in turn, will make them feel happy too!
- Tell your family you love them:
Some people may have a better relationship with their families than others, but despite how close you are to your families, remembering the love you have back home is always something to be thankful for.
- Random Acts of Kindness
Write a positive note of encouragement and leave it on a stranger’s bike seat to brighten their day. Already you are being a better, kinder person, so be proud of yourself!
- Count the things that make you feel grateful
Keeping a daily gratitude journal and listing a few things that you are happy about or thankful for on a regular basis will allow you to be content with what you have. Counting your blessings helps you to be more mindful about cherishing the present.
Contact Clarissa Gutierrez at cgutier ‘at’ stanford.edu.