16: Catch a Grateful Habit

16: Catch a Grateful Habit

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Amazing Mom

Catch a Grateful Habit

It is not happiness that makes us grateful.

It’s gratefulness that makes us happy.

~David Steindl-Rast

My mother has a hobby of being positive, and it is quite contagious. One day, I took Mom to the doctor’s office. As the nurse took Mom’s blood pressure, she asked, “How are you?”

Mom answered the usual: “Fine, thank you.”

The nurse gave the general answer, “That’s good,” while routinely pumping the blood-pressure bulb.

Later, when we got in the car to go home, Mom said, “Bet that nurse didn’t even hear my answer.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“The nurse probably asks all the patients how they feel,” Mom said. “The usual answer is, ‘Fine, thank you.’ The next time someone asks how I am, I’m going to answer differently.”

I asked her, “What are you going to do?”

“I’ll think of something,” she said.

The next time Mom had her blood pressure taken and the nurse asked the usual “How are you?” question, Mom gave a new answer: “I’m grateful!”

The nurse flashed a big smile and said, “Oh, I like that!”

Mom told me later about a time when she walked into the library office where she volunteers. The receptionist smiled and said, “Hi, how are you?”

Mom answered impishly, “Not well.”

“That’s good,” the receptionist said cheerfully . . . then paused to think a moment. “Oh, I’m sorry. What’s wrong?”

Mom laughed and explained she was testing various responses to “How are you?” and wondering if the person asking really hears the answer. She said, “From now on, I’m answering, ‘I’m grateful.’ ”

The receptionist beamed and said, “Oh, me, too. That’s wonderful.” So, now I am into this grateful “hobby” of my mother’s. Often a person asks me, “What are you grateful for?” It’s easy to come up with a positive answer.

Depending on the day or circumstances, I’ll say, “I’m grateful for the sunshine (or rain) today.” Or, “I’m grateful to be here talking with you!”

In A Whole New Mind, author Daniel H. Pink suggests that once a year on our birthdays, we write something that we are grateful for that particular year. Each year, we should add a new grateful item to the list.

Pink also suggests starting a Grateful List on a young child’s birthday. The child should be old enough to understand the project. Years later, the child can look back to see the history of his or her gratefulness.

A guest on a noted doctor’s TV show remarked that people who log in their Grateful List every day are twenty-five percent happier than those who don’t.

Since I’ve taken up Mom’s hobby, the reaction to my “I’m grateful!” answer is often a double take or a pause, and then a delightful response. There is always a smile! Here are some of the responses I’ve received:

Really? I like that.

That’s a great response!

Love it!

How refreshing!

Awesome response!

Oh, I’m stealing that!

When the secretary at my local gym smiles and asks how I am, she knows my answer. If I ask her, she’ll echo back.

Yep, this hobby is contagious for sure!

~Sylvia Brich Thompson

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