A year for the books is coming to a close. No need for a recap. 2021 is the destination on an endless ride over steep inclines with sudden drops, spills and tumbles.
“Are we there yet?”
We are indeed. The New Year is here. It’s time to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off. We are ready.
A message of hope comes from Giving Tuesday’s Chief Data Officer Officer Woodrow Rosenbaum:
Armed with this more optimistic point of view, we face the New Year a little lighter in spirit.
Gratitude is on the Agenda
Something about 2020 had us looking inward and was the springboard for a lot of soul-searching talks here at TheHome.com. During both our scheduled and unscheduled meetings, somehow the conversations often meandered over to topics like generosity, charity, and gratitude. It’s what we were always inclined to do, but something about the devastation of lives, well, there was no looking away.
2020 was the year we really felt our feelings. And we weren’t alone.
So Ellen’s “word” and TheHome.com’s mantra this year is GRATITUDE.
Do your 2021 plans include practicing gratitude?
Do an Internet search and you’ll quickly find countless ways to make gratitude a part of your life. A word of advice, be realistic. Start small. For instance, you can wake up each day and write down just three things you are grateful for. It takes 21 days to make a habit stick. Challenge yourself. See if you make it to January 21, 2021.
We mentioned how our discussions at the office often gravitated toward the topic of gratitude and giving here at TheHome.com. Though, for company founder, Ellen Gefen, it’s been a way of life. It’s only natural she landed on a new initiative she will launch in 2021 called Gratitude:365. Like so many of us, she looked to the new year as a blank slate, a way to make each day count, in the spirit of giving. Not to be overlooked, is the way we were before the painful eye-opener year.
It’s not lost on any of us how we were overworked, cranky, stressed, and running on low fuel as we overextended ourselves, often neglecting basic needs like adequate nutrition, sleep, exercise, and downtime. So her plan is to not only pay it forward through acts of kindness to others, but also, to herself.
Q. Can you tell us the “how” and “why” you came up with the idea for Gratitude: 365?
I’m grateful for all that I do have, and especially now, I’m grateful for my good health. But helping others has always been something I just did. So now I’m being more deliberate about it. My friends all know it’s second nature, it’s who I am. And I don’t like to make a big deal about it. I just do it. If I have something you need, I just give it to you. We were walking the other day, some friends and I, and it was getting dark and we all had Christmas lights except for one friend, so I split off a section and gave it to her.
Just these little things. My friends joke ‘if you need something just ask Ellen, chance’s are, she’ll have it.’
It’s the way I find balance in the world. So I thought, I’ll just focus on the word ‘gratitude’ and live it every day. I’ve made a conscious decision to focus each day on a new way to show gratitude to myself or to others.
Q. What do you hope to accomplish with your Gratitude: 365 Initiative in 2021?
More than anything, to really feel all the things I should be grateful for. To take the time to take a breath, to take a moment. Yesterday I was driving and talking to a friend on the phone at a stop light. I looked over and glanced at the full moon. It was so beautiful. I allowed myself to pull over and have a moment and take it all in. I think about my position and some of my friends or people going through all kinds of adversity.
But for the grace of God go I.
Coming from a place of gratitude keeps me in check.
Q. In our time together, you’ve really emphasized how meaningful charity and acts of kindness are to you. Can you connect to a particular event(s) in your upbringing that inspired you & led you down this path?
Not really, but I’ve realized, even at 60+ you continue to grow and realize this is just who you are. Maybe it’s because I’m a middle child? Maybe it’s something my parents did or maybe it’s just who I always was. It’s part of my DNA.
Q. 2020 was a hard year for many. What was the most difficult thing about 2020 for you? What, if any, “happy accidents” or growth (personal development) opportunities did you achieve?
Well, probably there were both family and work things that you never want to have to deal with, whether it’s having to make a change in your business or not seeing your family.
Q. I know you’re not one to donate-and-tell, but if you could shed some light on some of the charities you favor and you’re involved with?
I am an advocate for many different causes, none of them more important than the other. Health, family, animal welfare, children and adults with disabilities, schools, illiteracy, the environment …
…. I just encourage people to find a passion and support it!
Here are some of the charities on my list this year:
- Anti-Defamation League (ADL): Fighting Hate For Good
- The Salvation Army: Doing the Most Good
- St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital: Finding Cures, Saving Children
- City of Hope: Cancer Research & Treatment
- Second Harvest Food Bank: Member of Feeding America
Q. How can we follow your charity-related activities throughout the year?
Well, being that I’m kind of quiet about it … it’s not really going to be publicized. However, I will be posting my gratitude activity, possibly daily, on my social channels.
I keep coming back to the little things. It’s the little things you do that can have the most impact. You don’t have to be rich. Just do what you can.
Whatever act of kindness you can perform. People do small things like buy the cup of coffee for the person in line behind you or at the drive-through. There are so many ways to take small steps to show kindness.
My personal Instagram may be the best place to follow along. My hope is it will gain momentum with others as part of a collective gratitude movement.
The Science of Gratitude
Glenn Fox is a neuroscientist at the USC Marshall School of Business who studied how gratitude manifests in the brain. He and his colleagues have found links between gratitude and improved sleep, decreased depression, and more generosity.
“Benefits associated with gratitude include better sleep, more exercise, reduced symptoms of physical pain, lower levels of inflammation, lower blood pressure and a host of other things we associate with better health,” Mr. Fox said.
His research also found gratitude is linked to stress relief, social bonding, and reward; with a direct correlation to the feel-good hormone and neurotransmitter oxytocin.
“Gratitude is such a key function of our social lives and our evolution as a species,” he said. “People who did not develop gratitude or grateful relationships with others, it’s very unlikely they would have survived in a social context.”