Seasons of gratitude and service

With the season of giving thanks behind us and the season of giving in full force, let’s reflect upon gratitude and service to others. Did you know that both of these practices have an impact on your wellbeing?

Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to consider the blessings we’ve enjoyed during the past year. Including the practice of gratitude in your routine habits throughout the year takes the holiday’s concept to a whole new level. There are great benefits to practicing gratitude daily: studies have shown that taking the time to pay attention to what we’re grateful for helps people have a positive attitude, boosts the immune system, improves sleep and helps us be more empathetic and kind toward others.

You don’t have to have grandiose experiences to enjoy gratitude. Sure, the birth of a new family member or getting a big promotion are obvious things to be thankful for but it’s more often the little things that add up in a big way. The considerate driver who motions you onto West Main Street now that the Cherry Valley Road bridge is closed, finishing leaf pickup for the year or taking that first delicious sip of your morning coffee are all things that can improve your gratitude quotient.

If you practice gratitude each day, your thankfulness will multiply by changing your perception of what’s going on around you. Before you know it, you’ll be noticing new things to be grateful for. Yes, it’s great to give thanks for your family and your home but challenge yourself to come up with fresh ideas of what you’re thankful for. Think about people around us who are helping to provide a happy holiday to those in need in our community or the delivery people whose workload is compounded during the holiday season so we all receive cards and packages on time to name a few.

That brings me full circle to the idea of being of service to those around us. I am a Rotarian and at Rotary’s foundation is service about self. There is a Chinese saying that goes, “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”

For centuries, the greatest thinkers have suggested the same thing: Happiness is found in helping others. “For it is in giving that we receive,” is from Saint Francis of Assisi. Leo Tolstoy believed, “The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity”. Winston Churchill shared, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

Helping others improves our attitude and gratitude builds empathy and kindness, and both enhance our mental and physical wellbeing. Imagine if everyone around us incorporated service and gratitude into our daily lives – what a wonderful world this would be!

Author Penny Sitler is the Executive Director of Mental Health America of Licking County.

Printed in the Newark Advocate on December 11, 2022.

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