Expressing thanks to others, appreciating your accomplishments, and being grateful in every moment are vital wellness habits. They need to be honed, practiced and repeated daily. They do not come naturally in our hyperconnected world — where comparing and competing often take precedence over cultivating self-worth and personal excellence.
Thanksgiving is a national day in the United States celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. It is one of my favorite holidays even though I did not grow up here as a child and did not really begin to appreciate it until well into my adulthood.
Whether you celebrate this holiday or not, you can take a day (schedule it if you must) to take stock of your life and reflect on what you are truly thankful for.
Dig deep in the positives
Family, friends, community, health, home, and life itself are some of the most common short answers to the question, what are you grateful for? While these do bring out feelings of gratitude, you will benefit from digging deeper. Engage in higher-level appreciation by noticing the unique attributes of your favorite person or prized possession that are easily taken for granted or overlooked.
Why do you turn to a particular friend when faced with a personal crisis?
Which quality do you appreciate most about your life partner?
What special thing does your child do that melts your heart every time he does it?
Why is having good health so important to you?
How does your home bring you comfort and a sense of security?
As you explore and discover what you treasure most, you build knowledge and insights into how to create more of it in your life. Feeling deep gratitude and offering a sincere thank you will help call in the interaction, experience or thing you desire most, again and again.
Gain perspective on the negatives
After you have exhausted your list of big positives and major wins, dare to reflect on the first three losses, challenges or negative experiences that immediately come to mind. What was it about them that floored you, outmatched your grit, or tested your patience?
You don’t have to be grateful for them. You’re not going to be thankful for needing to euthanize your pet, staying up to finish a project you put off close to the deadline, continuing to watch a crappy movie just because you paid for it, or getting your car stuck in a ditch in a heavy snowstorm.
But with the passage of time and a different perspective, you can acknowledge the lessons learned and the actions you took to solve the problem and improve the situation. While the experience itself might never be met with gratitude, it can make you a more courageous person and empathetic human being when you stay open to the results.
Notice the small great things in your daily experience
Even when you get to the end of the day with nothing much to show for it — in terms of goals accomplished, major tasks completed, or big changes made — you can always have a moment of gratitude. All you need to do is pay attention to the little things that seem inconsequential but add up to make a good life.
It might be the neighbor who cleared snow from the sidewalk outside your home while he was ploughing his own space. It could be the barista greeting you with a genuine smile and remembering your name when you stop in for your regular caffeine dose. Maybe it’s the courteous driver who used his turn signal, checked his blind spot, and moved into your lane well ahead of you, instead of cutting you off. Or perhaps it’s your kindergartener giving you a hug every time she parts from you at the school bus stop.
Keep track of the small moments that bring a smile to your face. Practicing daily gratitude goes a long way in cultivating it for the long term, no matter the countless times you get angry, feel sad, or face disappointment.
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