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Forget what you lack, gratitude itself is rewarding

Dear Abbey

With the holiday cheer fading from memory as the reality of a long, cold winter sets in, it's hard to maintain a positive attitude. No one enjoys trudging to their 8 a.m. class, especially when it's 10 degrees out. We bundle up and keep our heads down, and stare daggers at the people walking too slowly in front of us on the sidewalk.

I wish I could say I'm not like this - that I bounce out of bed in excitement, and that I stare around me in wonder at the beauty of Miami's campus when it is covered in a fresh coat of snow.

Alas, I am not a morning person. So, I hit the snooze button and complain in my head when I see that I don't have a "class is canceled" email, until I eventually roll out of bed and go across campus in the warmest leggings I can find.

All in all, I consider myself to be a pretty happy person. I have my moments where I become cynical and irritated like everyone else, of course, but for the most part I maintain a positive attitude - to which I attribute my success both academically and in my personal life. What's the secret to this positive attitude, you might ask? How is it that when I get a bad test score that I simply brush it off and decide to do better next time rather than letting the stress eat me away? How do I find a positive aspect in every situation, even if there seems to be none at all?

The answer is simple, and all you need is one word to change your life: gratitude.

If you haven't had the chance to watch it, I highly recommend "The Science of Happiness- An Experiment in Happiness," on YouTube. Although it seems like just another well-done viral video that got passed around Facebook newsfeeds for a while before it was slowly forgotten, the video had a lasting impact on me.

The video focuses on a group of random people who agreed to do a psychological study. They complete a written test that examines their current state of happiness, and then they write down everything about one person who has been influential in their lives. After writing that down, they are asked to call that person and tell them everything they wrote. It seems so simple, yet the results are shocking.

How often do we really show gratitude for the people, and things in our life? Usually it's a rare occurrence, a little bit less rare around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

So often we're caught up in the things in life we don't have, whether it's the need for a new phone, the absence of a relationship or even wishing it was June instead of February. But what happens when you switch that focus onto what you do have?

For me, this change in perspective really opened my eyes to how lucky I am to have everything in my life. As someone with not one, but two jobs, I may be slightly more tired and busy than the average student, but I am also able to have an income. Getting up early for class isn't going to get easier, but being appreciative for the opportunity to learn at a school like Miami certainly made me complain less.

Being grateful and showing it in your daily life may not cause your whole life to change, but I think it really does have a positive change on not only your outlook on life but the attitudes of those around you. A simple "thank you" to a dining hall worker can change their whole day, just as someone holding the door open for you can change your whole day.

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Gratitude can change everything - and I think you'll thank me when you try it.