This next year is sure to challenge me, and I think it is essential that I spend a lot of time remembering and reflecting on all I have to be thankful for. International research shows that taking time each day to focus on gratitude can have positive benefits in various spheres of a person’s life (http://personalpages.manchester.ac.uk/staff/alex.wood/gratitudereview.pdf). Gratitude research is one of my favorite sectors of psychological research today, but it is not nearly as great as practicing gratitude!

I started to practice daily gratitude in high school, thanks to the one and only Mr. Mike Trimble. At the beginning of each day of class, we were required to write three things we were thankful for in a journal. As the year progressed, I realized that some days were much more difficult than others. But it was also lovely to take a few moments out of each day to focus on the good parts of my life. Therefore, I will be reinstating this policy during my year abroad! And every now and again, I will write a blog post focusing on the things/people/places/etc that I am most thankful for.

For this first Post of Gratitude, I would like to thank my family! My parents and siblings are always at the top of lists of things I am thankful for, but that has become especially true this summer as I have prepared to leave them for a year.  I have never gone more than a month without seeing my parents and/or siblings. They are my support system, my shoulders to cry on, and my favorite people to spend time with.

My parents, Mark and Sue, are two really fantastic people, and the best parents I could imagine. My dad was supportive of my decision to do YAGM all along, which is logical considering he is the reason I have grown to love traveling as much as I do. My mom took some time and convincing, but she came around to the idea. Now, they are so supportive that it is almost smothering. They have talked through countless to-do lists, concerns, panicky moments, and moments of joy with me. I am so blessed to have such patient, loving, caring parents.

My siblings deserve just as much praise as my parents. Erin and Ben are two of my very best friends, and they show me nothing but love. My sister, like my mom, was wary at first of my trip. Now, she is helping me to pack and listening to all my silliest worries. Ben has been nearly as excited as I have been since the beginning. He gives some of the best advice and will help me calm down from my most stressed moments. My siblings have always been able to make me laugh harder than almost anyone else, and spending time just being with them has been one of the best parts of my summer. Heck- they even jumped out of a plane with me in July!

Leaving my family in less than a week will be difficult. It might be one of the most difficult things I will do. However, it is not good-bye, because I will be back a year from now. We will have the rest of our lives to laugh, love, and make music together. Thank goodness that technology has come so far, so I will even be able to keep up with all of them and their busy lives while I am in South Africa! I am so grateful that I was born into this wonderful, crazy family. I am so proud to be a Henderson. And I am so glad I got to take a chance to thank them all publicly for all they do!

Mom, Dad, Ben, & Erin- this one’s for you!! 🙂

In this next year, I invite you to join me in practicing daily gratitude. Simply take a few moments a day and write down three things you are thankful for. I bet you’ll be glad you did!

And, because I love to include pictures, here are some pictures of my family!

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