By Crystal Stevens

The Oxford Dictionary defines gratitude as: “The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Gratitude often is only encouraged to be expressed surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday. This causes a narrowing of the word and emotion that is reserved for only a specific time of year. From my experience, gratitude alters ones mood, their outlook and their ability to be a catalyst for positive change. Gratitude is a miracle worker. It invites the company of mindfulness, happiness and the sweet visceral feeling we all get when we experience joy- a heartwarming feeling in our chest. This feeling sends chills down our spine, and provokes an instant smile. This feeling is symbiotic. Most feel it both when they are expressing and receiving gratitude. Gratitude comes hand in hand with the feelings of being alive in our bodies. Connection, positivity, laughter, hope, a thought provoking conversation, helping someone in need, holding the door for a stranger, smiling at a passerby, all ways in which gratitude is woven into the fabric of life.

My family and I were recently invited to a gratitude dinner hosted by friends. It was a beautiful evening shared with friends and strangers. We each drew a name from a basket and verbally expressed our gratitude for that individual whether we knew them or not. We took several moments before eating to be in the present moment and to experience mindfulness while we acknowledge each of the hands that our food had been passed through (starting with the seed) in order to sustain our existence.

Our family was honored to be a part of this beautiful gathering and I truly hold these individuals dear to my heart.

Gratitude is vitally important in human connection. The act of giving is a beautiful way to express love.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”

To me, this is an all-encompassing question in that it can be applied throughout so many avenues- social justice, the environment, humanity, and a question that truly has the potential to define our paths. If instead of asking children, “what do you want to be when you grow up?, what if we asked them, “How will you make this world a better place”- think of the impact that would make on the way they see the world, their role in the world and their purpose in life.

When you reflect upon gratitude, consider these reflections and affirmations.

Having gratitude for our basic fundamental needs (food, water, shelter), for our relationships, for connection, for love and for the earth on which we reside can sculpt the very essence of our lives and the way we live each day. Gratitude has the ability to change the cellular structure of our bodies. With gratitude present in our lives, we have the ability to change the tone of our voice, the intention in our heart, the way we treat others and the way we see the world. Gratitude is the foundation for happiness, contentment and optimism.

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
– William Arthur Ward

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”
– Melody Beattie

Crystal Stevens is a regular contributor to The Healthy Planet. You can purchase a copy of Crystal’s new book “Grow Create Inspire” online at www.growcreateinspire.com.
Crystal and her husband Eric are farmers at La Vista CSA farm in Godfrey, Ill.
Visit LaVistaCSA.org.