You can’t be hateful when you’re grateful!
It is ironic that in a world where people are electronically connected, on our phones, on the Internet, and on social media, we are more isolated and socially distant! We are frequently alone with our thoughts. At the same time, our social media posts are potentially subject to sharp criticism and judgment by others.
In this environment, feeling alone, self-critical, and unfulfilled is easy.
The Importance and Benefits of Positivity
Especially now, it is so important to develop and maintain a positive outlook. This does not mean that we should always be “wearing rose-colored glasses.” Being positive does not mean being oblivious to reality. This means keeping our eyes wide open to what is going on in our lives and around us while being hopeful and imagining the limitless potential in our lives and relationships. I have had times in my life where I “wore the rose-colored glasses” too often and did not always see what was really going on. Sometimes, seeing reality can be painful or disappointing. It is important to develop the fortitude and courage to move forward and make changes when we need to.
When we let anger and negativity take over, it brings us all down. We all get angry sometimes, but it is important to turn that energy into something positive. We may need to say “I’m sorry” or ask forgiveness. That honesty and vulnerability will make our relationships with others stronger.
Positivity can enhance our mental health by reducing stress and anxiety. It can also improve our physical health by strengthening our immune system and lowering our risk of chronic diseases. In turn, paying attention to our health by eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising can support a positive mindset. Research shows that being positive can actually reinforce positive thoughts and feelings and make us even more positive. This is because positive emotions such as gratitude cause the feel-good chemicals dopamine and serotonin to be released in the brain. The brain can utilize this feedback to create new pathways that support positive thoughts and emotions. 
The Virtues of Gratitude & Kindness
The virtue of gratitude is a work in progress. It is important to always be learning and becoming, never feeling that we have arrived, because that is where it becomes stale. Gratitude needs to be sincere and consequential for the recipient. It should feel like something other than a business deal. We need to try to see things from the other person’s perspective. It is necessary to love ourselves and be strong enough to be grateful to those who have wronged us, for this is where true growth comes from. Taking responsibility for who we are and our behavior is important. 
The virtue of kindness is sometimes associated with being a people-pleaser. This includes not standing up for one’s needs and wants. It actually takes a strong and wise person to be truly kind. It requires protecting oneself while taking care of others. 
Gratitude & Kindness as Practices
Part of being positive is to practice gratitude. When I was a child, my mom always insisted that I write thank-you notes whenever I received a gift. It did not matter if it was five dollars in a card or a toy that I really wanted. I began learning at an early age what it means to be grateful. For example, for the person who gave me five dollars in a card, this amount of money may have been significant for them to give. It was not about money; it was about a sincere gesture from another person’s heart. From there, I learned to frame my life in a positive way. I have had my share of challenges, like most people. Still, I make every effort to look at not-so-great experiences as opportunities for growth. Having difficulties is part of what makes life full and amazing.
Another part of being positive is practicing kindness. Kindness helps to generate positive energy. Giving others a kind word, a hug, or a leg up is easy when they need it. The whole group is only as good as the weakest and neediest member. Raising up others raises us up and raises up the group as well. Kindness is a muscle. When it is exercised, we are all stronger and better people.
How to Develop Gratitude & Kindness
Gratitude needs to be nurtured in young children. This will help them to grow up to be grateful and kind adults. Adults can lead by example. For children, learning these important values does not have to be costly or even cost anything! They can express their gratitude for all the wonderful blessings they have by being kind to someone else. It can be through a random act of kindness. Examples of kid-friendly random acts of kindness are paying someone a compliment, doing a chore without being asked, helping a neighbor with yard work, and talking to a new student at school.  It can be a small gesture, such as a visit with someone who is lonely and needs a friend. As my mom taught me, have them write handwritten thank-you notes, not thank-you texts. Everyone appreciates thank-you notes. Encourage the child to donate toys and clothes they do not want or no longer use. Take them to Goodwill or another organization that collects donations so that they can see and feel the entire process. Have a family meal once a week and use this as a time to go around the table and have everyone say what they are grateful for. 
Adults can also develop a mindset of gratitude and kindness. One way to do this is to keep a journal and write why we are grateful. But there is nothing like getting out of our heads and homes to see our blessings! I recently donated to a local food pantry. I know that people often donate in this way. I asked the coordinator of the food pantry what they needed. She said toothpaste and shampoo. I cannot imagine not having a toothpaste tube or shampoo bottle. Without these normal, good grooming tools, this seems like it could contribute to a loss of self-confidence, anxiety, and even depression. This could snowball. The person could lose their car because they cannot make the payments. Without a car, it isn’t easy to keep or get a job, and so it goes.
The Opportunity and Challenge
Let’s be grateful and kind to each other for the brief time we are on this Earth! Set gratitude and kindness intentions to make this practice tangible. Remember that the purest gestures are given selflessly, without expectation of something in return!
Read more articles on self-actualization on our Zealousness blog Self-actualization – iN Education Inc. (ineducationonline.org).
- “Virtues/Gratitude – Wikiversity.” n.d. En.wikiversity.org. Accessed August 1, 2023. https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Virtues/Gratitude#:~:text=The%20Virtue%20of%20Gratitude.
- “The Importance of Surrounding Yourself with Positivity.” 2017. OneEighty. November 30, 2017. https://www.one-eighty.org/news/the-importance-of-surrounding-yourself-with-positivity/.
- Howells, Kerry. 2017. “Six Pillars of Gratitude.” Kerry Howells. February 23, 2017. https://kerryhowells.com/six-pillars-of-gratitude/.
- “Kindness: The Most Underrated Virtue.” 2014. Big Think. January 2, 2014. https://bigthink.com/articles/kindness-the-most-underrated-virtue/.
- https://www.facebook.com/coffeecupsandcrayons. 2015. “100 Acts of Kindness for Kids | Coffee Cups and Crayons.” Coffee Cups and Crayons. January 12, 2015. https://www.coffeecupsandcrayons.com/100-acts-kindness-kids/.
- Kropf, Jennifer. 2022. “5 Easy Ways Your Kids Can Express Kindness & Gratitude.” Thrive Global. September 27, 2022. https://community.thriveglobal.com/5-easy-ways-your-kids-can-express-kindness-gratitude/.