Maintaining An Attitude of Gratitude

English teacher Christie Rushenberg reflects on being grateful

Madeline Halgren, Staff Writer

“What are you thankful for?” We are asked this question every year during the Thanksgiving season and often our answers are quite materialistic. We may say we are grateful for our iPhones or new pair of shoes. Other common answers include family and friends, but gratitude is much more than this.
English teacher Christie Rushenberg reflects on the things that she is grateful for in life.
“I’m mostly grateful for the people in my life. I have a stellar friend group who are more like sisters to me than friends. We’ve been together through thick and thin and elevate each other. My colleagues in the English department are also wonderful. They’re one of the biggest reasons why I never want to leave Millard North,” Rushenberg said.
Google defines gratitude as “the quality of being thankful or the readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Sounds like a simple concept right? Expressing gratitude may be something we do everyday, but it is significant to note what occurs on the inside when an act of gratitude is performed.
“When acts of gratitude are performed for me, I always feel humbled—and grateful. Students showing gratitude is one of my favorite things. One year, my classes all celebrated my birthday in the most endearing way; they all signed a gigantic card, plus bought me flowers and a house warming gift,” Rushenberg said.
A study done at a science center affiliated with California Universities charted the effects that performing and receiving acts of gratitude have on people mentally and physically. Many of their findings report higher levels of positivity, lower levels of isolation, as well as better immune systems and lower blood pressure.
“Every now and then, students will write me thank you notes or send me an email of thanks. They help me remember that my work has meaning,” Ms. Rushenberg said.
Exuding gratitude doesn’t have to be just saying “Thank you.” Gratitude can be expressed in many forms without words such as holding open a door or picking up something if someone dropped it. Simple actions for each other can create a more collaborative and inclusive environment.
“In expressing gratitude to others, I love being present to them, to show them that in that moment, they are the most important person in my life. I also enjoy giving gifts and affirming when I can,” Rushenberg said.
Gratitude is something that can be practiced in many different ways. A few popular ways to express it is through a gratitude journal or gratitude jar.
In a gratitude journal one documents all acts of gratitude they have performed or have been performed for them. This method allows people to eliminate cynicism and anger in their lives.
The gratitude jar however, provides a different approach. Many people keep a jar for a few months or a year. One writes acts of gratitude performed by or for them on a slip of paper and places it in the jar. At the end of the time frame, they can read all of the slips of paper and can be reminded of the graciousness they have experienced.
“On days when I’m despairing, I force myself to make a list of items for which I’m grateful. This practice forces me to get outside of myself and focus on all the blessings in my life. It also helps me remember that I’m not entitled to anything—even that which I work hard for,” Rushenberg said.
Implementing gratitude into our lives can greatly affect our health and relationships in a positive way. This holiday season when someone asks what you are thankful for stop and really think before you respond with “My iPhone.”