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The year 2020 was certainly a year I will never forget. While there was much tragedy, for me, it was a year of growth and prosperity. I had a lot of ups and downs, however, the ups far outweighed the downs. My business had some of its biggest growth it has ever had since I started it 6 years ago. I mended broken relationships that have certainly been beyond beneficial.

Coming into this new year, one word came to mind as I begin a new chapter in my life. What is that word? Gratitude. Yes gratitude. Something that I have been meditating on for the past few weeks. When you have gratitude in your life, you begin to realize all the goodness in your life and the goodness of other people in turn.  As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals, whether to other people, nature, or a higher power. 

Here is a man expressing gratitude for his situation.

I have realized that for me, I’m a creature of routine and structure, something that was challenging for me last year. Over the past few weeks I have made it a point to get up at 5:30 in the morning, go to the gym (now that they are open), and put my physical health back to the forefront I once had it. When I come home, I have begun to engage in 5 to 10 minutes of gratitude meditation before I start my day. With this new practice of gratitude, I have begun to reflect on the past 32 years of my life and what has led me to this point.

Personally, I am a father above all which has been the greatest gift. My son is my heart and soul. My role as a father has been one of the most fulfilling roles I have been in. Professionally, I am a Licensed Professional Counselor, diversity educator, motivational speaker and business owner. All roles I never thought I would have found myself in, but here I am.

These roles are all reasons for my newfound appreciation for the art of gratitude. I have had quite the exciting life in my short time here. I have learned a lot and I truly feel as if my experiences can be used as testimonies to help others in ways I never imagined. Lastly, I have recognized the importance of servant leadership and what It means to help others in their pursuit of happiness and self-development.

My goal in life is not to create followers, but to inspire the future leaders. I want to let people know that despite where you come from and whatever your situation is, there are always opportunities to persevere. We are truly our own limitation in life. Its imperative that we learn to become best friends with who we are and learn to appreciate the here and now moments despite the state of the moment. Whether good or bad, there is always something to learn.

During my recent reflections, I started to dive deeper into what it means to be gracious. As a person who is abundantly interested in the psychological perspectives of things, I wanted to study the art of gratitude in its entirety. Therefore,  I would like to share some highlighted points on what gratitude really means. Firstly, what are some actual benefits of Gratitude?:

  • Improves physical and mental health
  • Improves self-esteem
  • Enhances empathy & reduces negative emotions
  • Improves our quality of sleep
  • Makes people like us more
  • Strengthens our emotion
  • Leads to a positive attitude
  • Enables us to be much happier in life

Recent evidence suggests that there is a promising approach in the practice of gratitude. Indeed, many studies over the past decade have found that people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed.

While not definitive, here are four insights from past research suggesting what might be behind gratitude’s psychological benefits.

  1. Gratitude unshackles us from toxic emotions
  2. Gratitude helps even if you don’t share it
  3. Gratitude’s benefits take time
  4. Gratitude has lasting effects on the brain

Its quite amazing the ways in which gratitude can reframe our irrational thought process and negative thinking. Keep in mind, It is only us that can take initiatives to restructure those thoughts and actions. Everyday is another day, another opportunity to grow and blossom into our most complete self. While I don’t believe we ever fully reach that complete level of self actualization, the journey and strides towards growth is one of the most priceless pleasures of this thing call life. So with that, remember today, tomorrow and everyday after, be grateful

Brandon Wiley

Brandon Wiley is the Founder and Executive Director of a non profit organization called OpenedEyes that focuses on identity and diversity awareness. He is also a Licensed Professional Counselor at the Erie VA Medical Center . He received a B.A. in Psychology from Gannon University, as well as a M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. He is an advocate for social justice and believes in a world that is all-encompassing and inclusive of each and every one of us. Brandon was also featured as one of the top 40 Under 40 in the Erie Reader magazine in 2016.


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