Gratitude: The Key to Cultivating Connection


by Sara Notenboom

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued…” –Brene Brown

Connection. Gratitude. For me, the two are inexorably linked, and essential check points on the path to personal fulfillment.

Back in September, I wrote an article titled “I Just Want You To Know…” In it, I detailed my experience of anticipatory grief tied to my grandfather’s rapidly declining health, and eventual passing. I wrote about how although I hated watching him have to battle the treacherous grips of cancer for months, his illness also gave us the incredible gift of permission. Permission to come out from behind our constructed walls and get to the real stuff – the vulnerability, the love and the gratitude.

Gratitude for the small things – the hot chocolate he would make each time my brother and I would visit (and serving it to us with a straw, because it just tastes better that way), for the pre-dinner conversations we would have filled with wise words about life, for the shared struggle of disability and the empathy it fostered, for the love that he conveyed in a single wink, for the fact that he always sounded happy to hear from us when we called, and for always being willing to be present and armed with a cup of coffee when we showed up at the door.

Love is shown in the everyday things that we often take for granted, not grand gestures. Gratitude is found in those moments when we consciously decide to step back and reflect on the fact that we will never have it again. Each moment is special. Each interaction we share with another is sacred. Each human being brings a unique gift to this planet which deserves to be recognized.

But how often do we actually do this? How often do we have these soulful conversations about the stuff that really matters? The conversations with the people who mean the most to us, to let them know how much we are grateful we are for the presence in our lives without being prompted to do so by special circumstances?

Take a moment to reflect on the people who fill your life. Each one has brought you something – whether it be a lesson, comfort during a difficult time, a sense of unwavering support, moments of joy, a hug when it is most needed, an insight which has prompted your personal growth, moments of hilarity (that are still funny, even years later), a sense of unconditional acceptance and belonging, the courage needed to let your most authentic self shine brightly and unapologetically… The list endless.

Sit in your gratitude for these moments, and surrender completely to how abundant you feel. Revel in the realization that it is our unique connections to others that makes this ride worth it. Let your love shine by devoting yourself to the act of unabashedly expressing your gratitude. Let people know how you feel about them. Make a point of saying thank you for the little things- the everyday things, for one day we come to realize that they really are the most significant. Honor people for their individuality, for the gifts they bring to your life. Let them know that you really see them and that they make a difference in your life simply because of who they are.

Gratitude is a verb. It is meant to be practiced. And yes, it requires a high degree of courage because it is inherently vulnerable to expose ourselves in this way, but the payoff is worth it. Connections deepen, our sense of happiness and fulfillment rises, and our courage expands when we put gratitude into action.

How can you express your gratitude to those you love today? 


Sara Notenboom

Sara Notenboom

Sara holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and English Literature, and is currently completing her Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. She has a particular interest in the area of grief and bereavement, and is an experienced bereavement support facilitator. Sara regards her work as her calling, and is passionate about empowering people to embrace their lives fearlessly. Follow Sara on Twitter @SaraANotenboom.

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