By Jodi Baretz
“If we are not grateful for what we have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” Being charged with writing an article on gratitude I was forced to think about what I am truly grateful for, and what I could possibly write about on this topic. Of course, I’m grateful for the obvious things, the ‘big things.’ I’m grateful for my loving family, my supportive friends and my growing private practice. However, I think it’s just as important to recognize the ordinary moments in daily life, the little things.
I can recall a moment when my kids were small and I was bringing them for haircuts, which was not an easy task. Once I finally got them into the car, my two precious children proceeded to fight as per usual. As I was driving and listening to this free for all in the back seat, I would occasionally interrupt with a “stop it” or “enough already!”
When that didn’t seem to be effective, I started getting annoyed, and then for some reason, amidst all the noise and frustration, I just gave up. As I drove and the boys continued to yell, I just listened to them exchanging insults. I became amused by the banter instead of being annoyed with it. It struck me that these two little boys were not going to be young forever, and I realized how lucky I was to spend these precious moments with them. Suddenly, I made this major shift, a total reframe of the mind that filled me with gratitude.
Once you get the hang of the gratitude attitude, you can apply it to almost anything. Take a look at something small in your daily life. I just sat down to write this article after visiting Millwood Plaza, where I realized how lucky I am to live in this wonderful, supportive community–from the people I ran into who smiled and were helpful to the new businesses that are coming to town to make my life a little easier. Here are just a few examples:
- I am so grateful that DeCicco’s is coming to Millwood. We have been without a supermarket for long enough, and I’m sure many of you feel my pain.
- I am grateful that local businesses can still make it in this small hamlet, such as Drug Mart, Paradise Nails, the local dry cleaner and, of course, Dodd’s.
- Last but not least, I am especially grateful for Tazza Cafe. There are many wonderful places in town that I frequent, but the Tazza in Millwood, is a truly special place to me. (I hear the one in Armonk is also a popular hotspot). I go there daily for my tea, but the best part is those who work there know my order, my name and always greet me with a hearty “Hi Jodi!” It’s like Cheers without the alcohol. In addition, I usually know at least three people there who are also getting their caffeine fix. Being a part of a small community makes me feel connected and supported.
Once you keep noticing these small things to be grateful for, your own shift will start to occur. It will become habit. You will feel happier, and that feeling is contagious. Practicing gratitude is one of the top indicators of happiness, in addition to having many other benefits. Besides improving emotional health, it can have a positive impact on you physically. People who are grateful experience less aches and pains, according to a 2012 study published in “Personality and Individual Differences.” Gratitude also improves your relationships, self-esteem, fosters empathy and decreases aggression. It helps you sleep better!
So, how do we cultivate this all-important skill? Gratitude does not have to only be after something huge, like getting a promotion, or having awesome kids, it can be as small as your morning coffee at your favorite cafe. Noticing the small moments and truly appreciating them will help change your mind. A gratitude journal is proven to be a great way to hone your skills, but if you’re like me, you won’t be taking the time to do that so often, so being mindful of what you are thankful for throughout the day definitely helps.
I love the idea of a gratitude jar, especially with kids. It involves writing what you are grateful for on a piece a paper and putting it into a jar and reading them when you are sad or at the end of the year to inspire you! Now if we can extend that attitude of gratitude all year, we will be happier, healthier individuals and as a community.
Jodi Baretz, LCSW, CHHC, is a psychotherapist, mindfulness and holistic health coach at The Center for Health and Healing in Mount Kisco. She lives in Millwood with her husband and two sons. She is also the founder of the program and upcoming book, Mindful is the New Skinny.