Small Gratitudes and Mindful Moments

Posted by Brad McMillan, CFA, CAIA, MAI

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This entry was posted on Jul 21, 2017 1:20:32 PM

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small gratitudesIt’s a beautiful Friday in the middle of summer. I’ve spent the week examining investments and worrying over the future. Instead of more of the same, I thought we could take some time to think about how truly blessed we are right now.

I write about gratitude every six months or so. I do it because I believe it is important to regularly remind ourselves of good and positive things in our lives. We don’t need reminding about the bad stuff—it brings itself to our attention all on its own. But it’s easy to ignore or even forget the good stuff.

I also am a firm believer in gratitude’s ability to improve our lives—it’s been proven to have a positive effect on our attitudes, achievements, and health. Personally, I have been writing down at least three gratitudes every day for years, ever since I attended a wonderful presentation on the topic by Shawn Achor, a best-selling author, speaker, and researcher of happiness. (He attended Harvard, too.) Go ahead and take a look. I’ll wait.

Being more effectively grateful

What I have been thinking about recently, though, is how to be more effectively grateful. While I can and do write down how grateful I am for my family, my job (Commonwealth is a wonderful place), and other major items, I have been trying to be more mindful of the smaller blessings I see every day.

Here are some examples:

  • My shaving mirror, which improves my life more than you might think
  • A cup of hot tea while reading the paper
  • An omelet with really good cheese
  • The smell of the woods when I walk out to get my paper at the end of the driveway (It reminds me of summer camp when I was a kid.)
  • Watching the cats wrestle each other (It’s funny!)
  • Snuggling with my son while watching a movie
  • Talking and laughing with friends, which I was fortunate to do at a Commonwealth event last night

These are all small moments that could pass unnoticed if I let them. So I try not to.

This is the next level of gratitude, and it has taken me years to get here. Make no mistake: Writing down three blessings each morning is important—and I will keep doing it—but giving ongoing recognition to these smaller moments makes me even more aware of how good things are.

The journey to mindfulness

Mindfulness is the key here: Paying attention to each moment, giving it the recognition it deserves, and appreciating all the good that comes your way. One of my favorite John Mellencamp songs expresses it very well: “Days turn to minutes and minutes to memories. Life sweeps away the dreams that we have planned.” It is all too easy to have the minutes of your life taken away before they have the chance to become memories.

You might argue I shouldn’t be talking about this on a blog devoted to the economy and the markets, but I would profoundly disagree. The purpose of investing is to provide a better future for yourself and your family—and making a better foundation of the present is the best investment in the future I can think of.

You might also argue that it’s easy for me to talk about being blessed, but people are really struggling out there. This is profoundly true. How much more important, then, to try to focus on even just one small, good thing at a time?

As for me, the more I pay attention, the more I find to be grateful for. I hope that you find the same, and that you have a wonderful summer with your family and friends.

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