Pay it forward — How to be a more thankful person this year

Volunteering for Habitat for Humanity

Volunteering for Habitat for Humanity

When we’re wrapped up in the routine of school and work, it’s often easy to forget to not only take time to stop and smell the roses but also to appreciate how beautiful they are in the first place. We are overwhelmed with our to-do list and forget that we have many things to be thankful for. This holiday season, why not try to be a more thankful person by changing your outlook on life, taking the time to volunteer at shelters, giving back to your community through time spent at the local children’s hospital, and learning to pay it forward for the next person. You never know what difference one random act of kindness can do for another.

Where to begin?

In order to be a more thankful person you must first change your attitude and outlook on life. Stop and think about all the things you have to be thankful for you in your life right now…. Well, what did you come up with — a good education, reliable transportation, clean water and food to keep you healthy? All of these things are often taken for granted. Start right now and be thankful that you have access to these and many more luxuries that many don’t have. Now, if you factor in the fact that we live in a peaceful, beautiful country, have access to health care, and, according to a February 2009 post by John Tierney for Reader’s Digest titled “10 Reasons to Be Thankful,” have more free time than ever before, we can certainly come up with a long list of reasons to have more gratitude.

Some tips to help change your attitude and outlook:

  • Keep a daily or weekly gratitude journal full of the little things — Paper Coterie allows users to custom make hard cover or spiral journals at a reasonable price.
  • When you start to complain about having to miss that party because you work on a Saturday night, remember that you’re lucky to have a job; many Americans don’t and would give up anything to be working.

How to pay it forward

There are many ways you can volunteer your time and show that you are thankful for the opportunities you are given. Check with your college campus’s student organizations for events that may be in need of extra hands this holiday season.

  • The University of Michigan organizes clubs and organizations according to interest. 
  • Contact a local school or after school program such as the Boys and Girls Club of America or Big Brothers Big Sisters. Keep in mind that most organizations that service young children require background checks to volunteer.
  • Check out for several opportunities in your area.

Something as simple as buying a random stranger’s cup of morning coffee could jumpstart a long line of random acts of kindness. That person will be thankful for your kindness and look to pay it forward the next time.

Don’t stop there!

Finding little moments year-round to feel thankful and give back to your community will increase the overall happiness factor in your life. And, if you need an extra dose of happiness right now, be thankful for the Internet and for this video of people dancing around the world with videographer Matt Harding:

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