Americans are once again extremely divided over political extremes, and my students, here in China enjoy sending me text messages about things they are hearing and seeing on social media. They ask questions about the social unrest and the protests in the streets of America. Life in the US seems chaotic, especially, in the eyes of people throughout the world. I tell my students, the media is not covering the entire story. There have been periods of social unrest throughout our country’s 244-year history and progressive changes for the better have always followed those periods.
It can be extremely difficult especially with the Coronavirus pandemic to maintain an upbeat and positive attitude during these trying times. Especially, with the rise in Coronavirus cases and deaths in US hospitals. I remind my students; America has gone through many trying times before and this too will be overcome through our American resolve because Americans can overcome any challenge that comes our way. My personal experience of being quarantined for 10 weeks in China from the middle of January to the end of March was a trying period for me as well, but it became a period of self- reflection.
I received a text message, yesterday, from one of my former students who told me she got word that she will be able to enter the US on an F1 student visa. When I received her text, it reminded me of a lesson I gave her class last semester. I conduct this particular lesson every school year it’s about showing gratitude. She did a wonderful job of letting me know how grateful she is for the teachers she had throughout the years.
I explained to my students in class one day that most of us take things in our lives for granted. For instance, the nurses and doctors on the front lines caring for those infected with the coronavirus are shown little appreciation at times. We show them little gratitude for their service in caring for the needs of others until we or a loved one falls ill.
We rarely appreciate what we have in life until it is gone and that includes the people in our lives. Since I have been living in China people in my life have passed away, Aunts, Uncles, friends, and most recently my Mother. We rarely show or take the time to show others our heartfelt gratitude for them being in our lives and we do not fully appreciate the things they have done until they are no longer around.
Psychologists have discovered, people who show their gratitude are much happier than those who do not express their gratitude. Because it is not happiness, that leads to gratitude, it’s gratitude that leads to happiness.
Let the people in your life know how much you appreciate them, it will not only boost their self-esteem, but it will also boost their overall respect for you. When you give people a sincere compliment, words of encouragement, or just a warm smile, you are making their world a better place. You are making them feel appreciated and valuable. When you express your approval or gratitude for something others have done, you will not only enhance their life, but you will enrich yours as well. You will feel more fulfilled because you have done something to make a life for someone else better.
Start each day with a sense of gratitude it will have a positive influence on the rest of your day. Ending each day with a sense of gratitude will also bring you back to a place of appreciation no matter what happened throughout the day.
Gratitude is also a powerful affirmation it brings more of what we want into our life. If we are grateful for the things, we have, we will attract more goodness into our lives and the lives of those around us.
Every school year, I tell my students, write down at least 3 things you are grateful for and share them with a trusted friend. I also ask them to keep a daily journal because a journal is a great way of bringing out on paper all the things, we are thankful for. I tell them, it will be fun when looking back on your daily journal and reading what you wrote years from now. You will be able to see how your ideas and attitudes mature and grow with time. A daily journal is also a great way in helping you express the things you cannot say to other people even your best friend.
Every day, try and tell others what you are grateful for and 'why.' The 'why' explanation is the most important part of showing your gratitude to others. This expression of gratefulness will leave you feeling a lot more lifted when it comes to your mood and attitude on life.
Be grateful even during these hard times, because these difficult times in life can become opportunities for growth and understanding. Challenges can strengthen our minds and lead to greater maturity. Face each difficulty that comes your way with renewed vigor. But, most of all, be grateful that you have the strength to face your difficulties head-on.
Always with love from Suzhou, China
Putting your gratitude into action is quite simple - a simple text message, email, or a nice phone call will accomplish your goal of letting others know that they are appreciated. A handwritten thank you note can also be a super cool surprise for those we care about in our technology dominant world.
Thomas F O’Neill