UM students show appreciation on World Gratitude Day

For many, the act of expressing gratitude seems mundane, but how often do we really take the time to recognize and acknowledge the feeling?

Gratitude has been proven to combat poor mental health and cultivate strong social bonds. In a post-COVID-19 world, actively showing gratitude and building back “socially distant” relationships can be difficult — but gratitude can change that.

Former University of Miami researcher Michael E. McCullough and University of California, Davis professor Robert A. Emmons conducted a 2003 study that explored the benefits of practicing gratitude.

“There do appear to exist benefits to regularly focusing on one’s blessings. The advantages are most pronounced when compared with a focus on hassles or complaints,” said the researchers in their article published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

In observance of World Gratitude Day on Sept. 21, students at the University of Miami are expressing their gratitude for people who have impacted their lives and taken their passions to another level.

Photo credit: Diana Montalvo

Diana Montalvo, a fourth-year student studying political science and economics, is thankful for her brother.

“Having autism, he’s shown me to live life to the fullest in the small and simplest things,” Montalvo said. “And if I really want something, to fight for it.”

Sometimes, gratitude can emerge from unexpected experiences — at least, that is the case for Meera Patel, a fourth-year microbiology and immunology and public health major.

“I am thankful for Ted Lasso,” Patel said. “He opens my eyes to what it means to be a leader in someone’s life.”

After consistently watching the Emmy award-winning TV show, Patel sees the series as a way to think deeper and reflect on the character. One of the show’s central plot points is to “believe.” This concept inspires Patel, who is the chair of What Matters to U and the Homecoming Executive Committee. As a student leader, Patel integrates the central message of “Ted Lasso” to believe in herself and the initiatives she leads across campus.

Fourth-year Meera Patel welcomes the audience to a “What Matters to U” event featuring speaker Tabitha Brown.
Fourth-year Meera Patel welcomes the audience to a “What Matters to U” event featuring speaker Tabitha Brown. Photo credit: Contributed photo

“I am thankful for Israel Reyes,” fourth-year economics major Carolina Miranda said. “He was the first attorney I ever worked for and made me want to be a lawyer.”

Because of the opportunities Reyes provided, Miranda is now in the process of applying to law school and pursuing a career in the legal field.

Entering a new chapter of life is difficult, especially at a place like UM. Thankfully, there are people within the university that have shone a light so bright students attribute much of their personal success to someone who inspired them to keep going.

“When I first transferred, I didn’t feel like I belonged, like I made the wrong choice,” fourth-year creative advertising major Gaby Torna said.

However, through her First-Year Directions course, Torna was introduced to the Department of Orientation and Commuter Student Involvement (OCSI) where she met Stephanie Fleitas, the Associate Director for OCSI.

“Since then, Steph has been by my side, always supporting me, giving me amazing friends and always encouraging me to take risks,” Torna said.

Gaby Torna photographs members of the Association of Commuter Students (ASC)
Gaby Torna photographs staff members of UM's Great Start program. Photo credit: Lauren Ferrer

Out of gratitude for the opportunities and inspiration provided by Fleitas, Torna actively shows gratitude by being involved in the department, serving as a Transfer Assistant for the 2021-2022 academic year and taking photos for pre-orientation program, Great Start, despite not being on staff.

Sometimes, it isn’t until time has passed that gratitude forms. In retrospect, some students turn back the clock to thank those who planted the seed of encouragement that bloomed into the person they are today. Third-year psychology major, Julian Villeta, recently spoke with a teacher who made such an impact on his life.

“This may sound cheesy, but my fourth grade teacher Mr. Romero was the first person to believe in me,” Villeta said.

Find some time today to reflect and think about the people in your life who inspired you to be the person you are today. Once you have some people in mind, don’t keep it to yourself — tell them. Make it a habit to give thanks for the people and opportunities around you and notice how much brighter your world gets.