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How creating a “thankful list” changed my outlook on life

Last year, I made a *revolutionary* decision that transformed the way I view my relationships, productivity and happiness. 

As I moved away from home and began my life at a new school nearly three hours away, I was worried about handling this major transition without the safety net of nearby friends and family. I often found myself worrying about the moments I was missing at home, or how long it would take me to acclimate to life at my new school. Change can be scary, and regardless of the season of life you are in, there will always be times when feelings of nervousness or uncertainty materialize

After talking to my mom about the way I felt, she reminded me of the importance of counting my blessings and encouraged me to begin drafting an ongoing thankful list. "Every night before you go to bed, write down three things you are grateful for," I remember her telling me.

Whether I wrote down events, themes, experiences or people, I made sure that I filled out my thankful list every single night. Writing my list became a nice way to prioritize my thoughts, and I found that it helped me remember the simple joys of life that are easily forgotten amidst the chaos of daily activities,

Regardless of whether it was as simple as "I had pasta for dinner" or as big as "I aced my midterm," adding to my thankful list ended my day on a positive note and reminded me that I have a lot to be grateful for. 

A sample entry in a thankful list might look like:

1. I am thankful for a fun movie night with my friends

2. I am thankful for my Mom's simple acts of kindess 

3. I am thankful for warm coffee in the morning

I find that taking the time to prioritize happy, positive thoughts can both improve people's mental and physical wellbeing. We spend our lives searching for the secret to living a happy, fulfilling life–only to later realize that the key to happiness lies within us.

Research suggests that counting your blessings can improve your mood and ability to think positively. After beginning my thankful list, I noticed that I began responding better to stress. Because I wasn't as stressed, I slept better, and because I slept better, my mood improved. Actively working on thinking positively also contributes to increases in happiness due to boosts in confidence and optimism. 

When we don't consciously monitor our thoughts, it is easy to let negative events overshadow the good parts of our lives. It is important to remember that, just because a day had a bad twenty minutes, doesn't mean it was a bad day. It isn't worth it to expend your mental energy dwelling over *every* situation that has gone awry—instead, count your blessings. Positive thoughts arise from positivity, after all. 

It is equally as important to recognize, however, that prioritizing items of gratitude should not take the place of traditional coping mechanisms. Being conscious of your blessings doesn't mean you should ignore life's pitfalls, it just means you are able to provide yourself with the tools and optimism necessary to tackle problems that may arise.

Although I am now content with my life at my new school, I still frequently add items to my thankful list. Whenever I need to be cheered up, I *always* know I can take comfort in reading through all the positive memories, people and experiences that I am fortunate enough to have in my life.


by Claire Hutto | 11/25/2020