Attitude of gratitude: Why mindset matters

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Alyse Zuiderveen

Many PV students start their day by writing things they are grateful for to set their mindset for the day ahead.

Alyse Zuiderveen, Copy Editor

When PV teacher Amy Miller was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, she had a critical choice to make about her attitude and demeanor: She could choose to focus on the hope of the life ahead of her or let her situation discourage and deflate her. She chose to fix her mind on a hope-filled future by utilizing intentional efforts of gratitude in her everyday life. 

While gratitude is often affiliated with holidays like Thanksgiving, its value outside of the November holiday can have a long-lasting effect on quality of life. While Miller is cancer-free now, she has found that the benefits of gratitude-based living extend into her daily life. 

Upon her diagnosis, Miller struggled to maintain her positive attitude. She knew that the road ahead would be challenging and filled with difficult medical procedures, such as chemotherapy. “During this time, I really began to focus on how I was going to keep myself in a positive frame of mind throughout my journey,” she shared. “I made a point to start each day thinking of two or three things that I was grateful for, using those things as an anchor for my thinking for the day. When I felt myself getting down or worrying about the unknown, I would use my grateful thoughts to shift my mindset, steering my thinking in a different direction.” 

Miller’s journey with cancer was much longer and more painful than she had anticipated; however, over time, her gratitude-focused routine became an important and uplifting habit. Knowing attitudes are contagious, she has worked to model an attitude of gratitude in the classroom as well. For example, her students can access picture books that encourage positive thinking in her classroom library. She also sets aside class time to allow her students to write in a gratitude journal. 

Miller hopes that her teaching style and discussions about topics like fixed versus growth mindsets help “to shape children that will grow up to identify and appreciate things that they are grateful for and help others to do the same.” Miller also desires that “they will see that they can achieve challenging goals and tackle trials in their lives with a growth mindset.” 

This raises the question: How can we take the motivational stories of teachers like Miller and apply them to our lives?

For many like Miller, choosing positivity amidst tough circumstances can seem overwhelming and nearly impossible at times. When life gets difficult, the weight of uncontrollable burdens like anxiety may seem as if they control our lives; however, it is important that we take control in our minds and attitude — even if the changes seem small and insignificant. 

Taking control in these ways could include gratitude journaling or simply downloading an app like “Gratitude” which provides users with opportunities to journal, express areas of their life they may be struggling with and set goals for continuing to grow in gratitude. 

Utilizing the knowledge of counselors can also be helpful when working to attain an attitude of gratitude. Jason Taylor is a certified counselor who currently serves as the Biblical Soul Care Pastor at Coram Deo Bible Church. He often encourages the individuals he works with to focus on gratitude and contentment, as he feels that they go hand-in-hand. “It is amazing how joy increases and anxiety decreases when we are content and thankful,” he shared. 

While overcoming life’s tough circumstances will take both effort and time, beginning with gratitude will expedite the process while creating both joy and contentment.