Over my 29 years of life, I’ve learned a lot about Thanksgiving and giving thanks. I’ll narrow it down to five for the sake of this post.
1. There really is SO MUCH to be thankful for.
When you really think about it. There is a lot in this world to be thankful for. In my case, I have a wonderful family, a husband I would marry again and again, a roof over my head, a car to drive to the job that I have, food in my refrigerator, the list goes on. And on. And on. Think about it. There are 6-some billion people on the earth. What are the chances that I would be born into freedom? In a place that’s far away from the Ebola break out? Where I can walk on the street in front of my husband and I don’t have to cover my face? When you really sit down and think about it, there are one million little and big things every day I have to be thankful for…ok that was the easy one. I learned that one in like pre-school.
2. Gratitude is different than thankfulness.
Like I said, being thankful is the easy one. Gratitude is a whole other ball game. Thankfulness breeds gratitude. Gratitude is a lifestyle of thankfulness. It’s an attitude. If I live a life of gratitude, it affects everything else. It affects the way I treat people, which directly affects the quality of my relationships. It affects the way I do my job. It brings humility, gentleness, and contentment. This is different than writing a long list of things to be thankful for because it’s every day. Not just the last Thursday in November. It’s different because it permeates your life and creates opportunity to bless others. It’s deeper and more meaningful. Also, it’s way harder.
3. Gratitude takes practice.
Gratitude is not a natural state of mind for everyone. It comes more easily to some than to others. To be honest, the amount of gratitude in my life ebbs and flows. Every once in a while, I start to get selfish. What about me? Why does my opinion carry so little weight? Why can’t I have the nice car, be as skinny as I was in high school and always have the clever confident comebacks?? (I typically think of those 30 minutes later when I’m having the argument again with the imaginary passenger in my car.) These selfish moments are the moments when I’m losing my grip on gratitude and the moments I realize I need more practice. Selfishness is the root of all evil…It really is. With so much to be thankful for, with my long long list of things, why do I selfishly choose to focus on the things that I don’t have? Because gratitude takes practice. Every day. Practice gratitude. You’ll get better at it.
4. It’s not always easy, but it’s very simple.
This is a difficult concept. My life of gratitude is up to me. Am I gonna focus on the things I have? Or the things I don’t have? There’s no complex issue here. It’s a simple choice that causes simple actions that flow naturally from that choice. The choice, though. The choice is sometimes very hard to make. When your day just won’t go your way, and you did something to make someone mad, and you can’t fit into your pants, and your hair is dirty, and you run out of gas…those curl up and cry kind of days…that’s when gratitude is hard because it is SO EASY to focus on yourself and how nothing is right. I used to get so frustrated with my dad when I was little because he told me over and over that it’s up to me. How I feel, how happy I am, how content I am is up to me. You just have to decide. It’s very simple. But it’s very difficult. Once I figured out that he was right, it made it easier to do. Easier. Still not easy.
5. It’s worth it to try.
I don’t think any human is capable of living a life of gratitude 100% of the time, although I think Mother Teresa probably came close. I also think Mother Teresa had a great deal of joy in her life. Servitude, humility, gentleness, contentment, and, yes, gratitude bring true unwavering joy. I’ve noticed a direct correlation between the amount of gratitude and the amount of joy in my life. When I have gratitude, I’m nicer to people. When I’m nicer to people, they like me better. When people like me better, they’re nicer to me. When I’m content with what I have, I don’t have jealousy for things other people have. The affects of gratitude are endless and so positive. It’s a cycle both ways. It’s worth it to strive for gratitude.
With that in mind, here are some reasons for gratitude that I was reminded of this Thanksgiving.