Gratitude: the ticket to happiness

joe previte and stacey fawthorp at imagine dragons concert

On Monday night, my girlfriend treated me to the Imagine Dragons concert in Phoenix at the U.S. Airways Center as her Valentine’s Day present to me. Towards the end of the show, the lead singer Dan Reynolds dedicated a song to a boy named Tyler Robinson who, he said, passed away at age 17 this past year after battling cancer for four years. Even though he was fighting for his life, Dan said he always had a smile on his face and was just happy to be alive. The story and song reminded me of the lesson just recently: the key to happiness is gratitude. 

I learned this lesson from teachers, professors, and speakers over the years but it never really hit home until I watched these two TED talk videos about happiness.

The first talk is titled The happy secret to better work by Shawn Achor. Basically, he explains how society teaches us that success leads to happiness. If we are successful, we will be happy. However, he says that studies have shown that once we reach our goal, we feel satisfied but the feeling is only temporary. Later, he explains that we can do 5 simple tasks everyday to train our brain to think differently and to be happy with life. Here they are:

  1. 3 Gratitudes (Write down 3 things you’re thankful for. Brain begins to write a pattern to see the world more positively.)
  2. Journaling (About one ore more positive experiences you have had over the last 24 hrs teaches your brain to re-live these moments.)
  3. Exercise (Teaches your brain that behavior matters)
  4. Meditation (Detaches you from multi-tasking. Increases your focus on the task at hand)
  5. Random Acts of Kindness (ex. 1 positive email thanking someone)

He challenges you to try these things for 21 days see if you feel happier as a result. From my own experience, I  try to do these things everyday after having watched this video and feel more positive and happier in life.

The second talk is titled Want to be happy? Be grateful by David Steindl-Rast. The purpose of his talk is to remind us to slow down and be grateful of everything in life. The one idea that I really agreed with that he repeated over and over is the idea that every single second in life is another opportunity to live. It’s another chance to be thankful that you can breathe and experience life. I, myself, have been taking that for granted all my life and it made me stop and remember that I could die any second. I have no idea when I’m going to breathe my last breath. No one does, which is why we should be thankful for every opportunity given to us.

The last thing I want to mention about gratitude is the expression, “At least…” that we use in English. Think about it-when do we use this expression and why do we use it? It exists, in my opinion, specifically for us to point out the positive aspects of any given situation. To look at the bright side. To stop and realize, “Hey, this could be worse.” Think about that. The next time you’re talking to someone, consider this phrase and see if you can use it. See if you can hold back the corners of your mouth stretching out into a big, wide smile after you say it and maybe you’ll surprise yourself 🙂

Shadow Mountain Cross Country Alumni Christmas Eve Run

cross country alumni running on christmas eve

This year, I was introduced to the annual Shadow Mountain Cross Country Christmas caroling run.   For the past 19 years, SMHS cross country alumni runners have met at the high school on Christmas Eve to gather together and run to different places to sing Christmas carols. I ran on the cross country team my senior year in high school but have been out of town for the runs the past two years. However, this year, I joined in and helped keep the tradition alive.

The way I learned how the tradition works is this:

Everyone meets at the front parking lot near the office at Shadow at 8am. We all stretch and wait about 15 minutes until everyone shows up. Then we run as a group and sing a Christmas carol at each store or restaurant. Before heading home, we stop at an alumni’s parents house near Cholla and 36th st for water and homemade cookies. Afterwards, we finish back in the parking lot were we started and sign something(a flag this year) that is given to one of the alumni.

This year we hit Target, Paradise Valley Mall, IHOP and Bashas and Mithc, a freshman at Shadow this year, received the signed flag to take home.

Some of my favorite parts of this experience:

-hearing people chime in and sing along with us

-singing as we ran through the mall

-running with alumni from recent and past years like 1997 and 2013

I wanted to share this tradition because I think it’s really neat and I hope to continue it and keep it alive with the rest of the alumni. Hopefully you enjoyed reading about it! Lastly, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 🙂 Feel free to share any thoughts or comments below


Post-Study Abroad: Observations after one week in Phoenix

It’s been a little over a week since I’ve been back and I’m really enjoying it. A few things have stuck out to me after having been gone for almost half of the year and I thought I’d share those observations:

Car is my main transportation

I was so accustomed to taking the bus and riding the subway everywhere that it felt weird being in a car at first. Now, I can’t imagine how I would get around without a car!

I can pay with cards and leave cash in the bank

Something I definitely feel grateful is being able to pay with a debit card or credit card. Of course there were many stores that accepted debit and credit cards but I didn’t think it was worth it to sign up since I was only there for a short period of time.

It’s easier to talk to people

WOW! While I did feel comfortable speaking Spanish in Argentina everyday for a long period of time, I can’t explain how easy it feels to speak in English now that I’m back. It’s amazing.

I appreciate my dogs more

I have never realized how much I don’t appreciate my dogs until being in Argentina for almost 6 months. It’s such a happy feeling to walk in the door every day and have two over-excited dogs jump up on you because they love you. Now I certainly don’t take them for granted and feel happy to see their fuzzy faces everyday

Christmas spirit in the air

While there are many people in Argentina who celebrate Christmas, it’s nothing like it is in the States. There in Buenos Aires, I noticed some decorations in various stores for Christmas but not like here. Here, you walk into the mall and there is Christmas music playing and there are decorations everywhere. You see Christmas trees for sale around the city and houses are decorated with Christmas lights. It’s wonderful.

Even though I loved Buenos Aires and plan on going back after I graduate, I’m happy to be home and to be able to celebrate the holidays with my friends and family. Well, that’s all. Until next week! Merry Christmas and happy holidays! 🙂

Starbucks gift cards- A random act of kindness

a close up of a starbucks cup

The purpose of this post is to share an wonderful experience that happened to my friend Jordan and I while we were sitting in Starbucks on Monday afternoon.

Jordan and I are talking about the travel website we’re working on when we hear the door open and the bell jingle. Two ladies-roughly he same age as our moms so in their forties-walk in, look around and see that there are no tables open inside.

“Well, shoot. I guess we’ll have to go to another one since we can’t sit inside.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. That’s a shame.”

Without thinking twice, I say to them, “No, wait! You two can have our table.”

“Yeah, it’s totally fine! We don’t mind sitting outside.” Jordan chimes in.

“Are you two sure? It’s awfully hot outside.” One of the ladies replies.

“Yeah, we can handle it!” I reply and then smile back.

“Thank you so much! That’s very kind of you gentlemen.” The other lady replies as we move our stuff and go sit outside.

We honestly didn’t think it was that horrible outside because we were used to it. And, the misters kept us semi-cool.

After about a minute, one of the ladies came outside and offered to buy us coffee but we declined.  We were only trying to be kind and help them out. Especially since we had been there a while and we didn’t mind moving our conversation outside.

Then another minute went by. This time a lady-about the same age, maybe 5 years older-came outside and said,

“What you two did was very generous. It’s a blessing to know there are still random acts of kindness. Think of this as a token of appreciation. God bless you.”

Then she handed us each Starbucks gift cards.

Jordan and I both looked at each other with our jaws dropped thinking, “Did that really just happen? I had heard about random acts of kindness and always thought of them as holding the door open or letting someone out of the parking lot first but never witnessed nor experienced first-hand something like this.

Then I realized, “Wait, if what she did had such a positive impact on me then why am I not imitating her and doing more random acts of kindness?”

Now, I hope to play the opposite role and cause someone’s jaw to drop with kindness. I know that it may seem hard to find opportunities to do it without being weird or uncomfortable but I plan to purposely look for them. When I find one, I’ll be more than happy to share!


Have you ever experienced a random act of kindness or performed one?