On Thanksgiving Day all around the country, families and friends will gather and likely discuss the things for which they are grateful. We don’t usually think about what being grateful actually means—the nature of gratitude. We might not think about it in detail, but Gratitude Counselor Kevin Monroe does.
Kevin grew up in Perry, Georgia, and has lived in Cherokee County for the past thirty-four years. He has made a career of studying gratitude and teaching it to others. He even developed an app to help everyone practice the art of being grateful.
What was Kevin’s introduction to the concept of gratitude?
Kevin believes that being Southern was his introduction to being grateful and expressing thanks to others. Wanting to make the world a better place has been in his DNA, in large part because of his mother’s influence. He shares, “Being kind, generous, caring for others was just the world I was raised in.”
What is the difference between being grateful and being thankful?
Many people confuse being thankful for being grateful. Kevin explains being thankful is often transactional. You pick up your coffee at the drive-through and say, “Thank you.” You may be listening to the radio or looking at your phone and not actually thinking about what you said and why. You were taught to be polite and say the words. Being grateful, however, means you go deeper. “Gratitude is to linger longer in the spirit of thanks, and it becomes transformative,” Kevin explains.
Why create an application about being grateful?
Kevin has worked with companies and organizations to develop ways to use gratitude to improve leadership skills and employee morale. When he emailed exercises to help employees continue to work with gratitude, often the emails hit firewalls or had other problems getting delivered, thus the app Grateful was born. It helps individuals connect with those around the world who are sharing things for which they are grateful.
How do we start practicing authentic gratitude?
To practice authentic gratitude, Kevin says we must pause, notice, and express. Pause what you are doing, notice what you are grateful for, and express that gratitude. When you get your coffee in the drive-through, put down your phone, turn off the radio, and have a genuine conversation with the baristas. Thank them for something specific and engage in real discourse. Another great way to practice gratitude is by writing a simple thank-you note. Make it simple and sincere, he says.
Why is gratitude so important?
Kevin has a great analogy about gratitude: “Gratitude is like the clown car at the circus; it never travels alone.” Joy, abundance, and deep connections are some of the traveling partners to gratitude. Being truly grateful will combat hate and anger, because once you start practicing gratitude more frequently, joy will follow, and your perspective of the world will change.
“Gratitude,” Kevin explains, “is our best tool for shifting or shaping perspective.” Instead of thinking about gratitude as an obligation—I should be grateful for these things—think of it as a way to help get through the tough parts of life and make real connections with others.
What is a simple way we can work on gratitude during the holidays?
Instead of asking our friends and family what they are grateful for, start with these prompts:
- Who was the superstar of your day/week/month?
- If your day were like a movie, what was the highlight today?
- What is your favorite thing about your house?
- What is your favorite thing about your best friend?
- What was your favorite dish at the meal? Go through all the ways you are grateful for it, from the person to who grew it, processed it, cooked it, and served it.
Instead of saying the usual things we are thankful for this year, branch out and express your gratitude. Keep that attitude of gratitude going, and watch how your life improves.
Kevin says, “Gratitude is not a cure all, but it’s a great cope all. Hope grows in gratitude.” He’s not alone in his thinking. Zig Ziglar, a famous author and motivational speaker, once said, “Of all the attitudes we can acquire, surely the attitude of gratitude is the most important and by far the most life-changing.” In his day he recommended keeping a journal filled with things you’re grateful for. Today there’s an app for that.
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Angela has lived in Canton with her family since 1999. After retiring from teaching English at Sequoyah High School, she enjoys writing for Enjoy Cherokee and spending as much time with animals as possible.