On forgetting to be thankful
I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude as my first experience of Thanksgiving approaches, and it’s been interesting as I’ve discovered that its actually really hard to write about being grateful without using lots of overused buzz words that make people roll their eyes! But I write this from my desk, on my laptop, in my home with a cup of coffee in my hand and my tiny dog sleeping in my lap. It’s a good life.
And while that does seem all warm and fluffy, I have to tell you that it’s taken me half a day and several rewrites to be able to be able to express my thoughts on gratitude. What I have realized in that time is that I am actually a lot better off than I realize and that I don’t stop to be thankful nearly often enough. In fact,
I’m feeling a little bit like a teenager who's always going “I want more!”
The biggest issue with being involved in the personal development field is that I’m always looking for ways to improve. Every single day the question I answer before I go to bed is “what can I do better tomorrow”, which if you’re interested is an AWESOME way to kick your results into high gear, but it also has the unintended consequence of rendering everything you did the day before as “not good enough”. And if you are like me and have goals and ambitions, sometimes the space in between here and THERE is a land of “things that are not what I want them to be”. Which breeds frustration and as I learned this morning, a lack of gratitude.
The reality is that even if my life never changed from what it is right now, it’s a good life. I have all the basics (a roof over my head, income, a family) and many many non essentials that I’ve grown so used to that I tend to take them for granted. Which is deeply ironic at a time when we are working on teaching my step daughter to have a sense of gratitude for the many privileges that she has.
So yes, I’m feeling a little like a teenager myself today!
Gratitude is not settling for what you have now, but it IS about recognizing that what you have is good. It’s a way of shifting your focus from what you don’t yet have, the struggles and frustrations that you may experience and in a way, almost fortifies you against life’s difficulties.
A few years ago I participated in a movement that a friend started called Three Good Things, which was literally about just writing three good things about every day. And its funny that since I stopped doing that, I’ve found that I’ve lost some of the benefits of focusing on the good in our lives. And there is plenty of good solid psychological research out there to show you that being grateful is good, so don’t just take my word for it! Google is your friend!
Because gratitude creates a mindset change, it helps you to see more good than bad in your life. It also keeps you grounded in the here and now. It’s a lot harder to worry about the future when you’re focused on what good things you have now.
Being grateful stops negative emotions like jealousy or regret from stealing your attention.
Because you can’t do both at the same time!
And most importantly, gratitude reminds us that we are not alone. Being grateful means recognizing that there is an element of luck and of other peoples input into our lives, it reminds us how important the support and love of those around us is to our happiness and success. Which makes it a deeply spiritual practice too. My mum likes to say “there but for the grace of God go I” which basically means, you’re a lucky lucky fish and it could be so much worse!
And if all those things are not a good enough reason to be thankful.... there’s always pumpkin pie!