Last week, there was a news story on the East Coast about a homeless man, who all he wanted for thanksgiving was a family to spend it with. That’s all. Just wanted companionship, people to spend the holidays with. In the hopes for a happy ending, a family has stepped up to offer that to him, and as we can imagine his day will be amazing. He will be overjoyed to spend the day with a family. How many times do we take that for granted, spending time with people? What else do we overlook in our day to day lives that others would pray or beg for?
In November, everyone stops to discuss what they are thankful for. Many of us share a thanksgiving meal where we go around the table mentioning what we are thankful for, other times, our peers are writing their 30 days of thankfulness on facebook. Even our teachers use thankfulness as a writing prompt in English classes. It’s on our minds throughout the month, and especially the week of thanksgiving. However, have we really sat down and thought about it? Do we allow this time of the year, to change us?
As many of us know, in the positive psychology field, gratefulness is correlated with happiness or life satisfaction. Those who are more thankful or grateful, are more satisfied with their lives and can see that “silver lining” on the rainy days. Life happens. We will have bad days, we will mistakes, things will not go our way. Sometimes, life is a little tougher for some of us who have experienced traumas or unexpected curves in our life’s path. However, it’s up to us, to avoid the mindset of “I have nothing to be grateful for” and change it to, what in that moment can I be grateful for?
My hope for you this holiday season, is that you take this week’s attitude of gratitude and apply it to your daily life in the upcoming year. Here are some suggestions:
1. How can you NOT be happy with what you have, when you are making a constant mental note of how blessed you are? When I have a client who struggles in seeing even the simple positive things in their life, I assign a positive journal. I challenge them to find 2-3 positive things in their lives each day and write them down. This can be as simple as finding an upfront spot at Wal-mart, or waking up on time that morning. Doesn’t matter, I want them to write it down. It’s hard to see those good moments, when we aren’t paying attention! Research states that when we write these down, that we report fewer depressive symptoms and feel more optimistic about our future.
2. How many times do we thank people around us, for what they are doing? It takes a brief moment to say Thank-You, or to acknowledge that someone has done something for you. Some simple examples of expressing thankfulness:
* Wave to thank the driver who let you in, in the middle of traffic
* Thank the gentleman who held the elevator door for you as you ran down the hallway
* Thank the doctor or professional who squeezed you into their schedule
* Thank your daycare / pre-school workers for all the hard work they put into raising your children each day, after getting a report of how your child had a red or yellow day.
* Bring a soda to your co-worker who listens to your venting each afternoon
* Hug your child after they have thrown their clothes in the laundry room
* High five your 3 year old for flushing the toilet (with no toys or extra toilet paper!)
* Express your gratitude for the overworked retail clerk on Black Friday who greeted you with a smile
* Hug your significant other in appreciation that they are committed to you
It’s easy to be grateful for people in our lives (even strangers) when we acknowledge them.
3. Don’t “expect” that life will give you everything. Be surprised and grateful when something happens. Re-frame your frustrations or bad days into something different. We have the power to do that!
* Instead of being angry that you didn’t get the promotion or raise you had anticipated, be thankful you have a job. Be grateful that you are good at what you do.
* Instead of being frustrated that your teenager’s room is a mess, be thankful he/she spent the evening watching netflix with you or not out with their friends getting into trouble. Acknowledge that he/she is staying home and you enjoy the popcorn and hanging out together.
* Instead of being frustrated that your baby wakes up at 5am each morning, be thankful your baby sleeps through the night. Or be thankful that he is able to be at home with you and not in the NICU fighting for his life. When you walk into that bedroom, instead of frustration, be happy to see your baby awake and wanting to be held, or changed, or fed. You have that opportunity, enjoy these little moments.
* Instead of being annoyed that your car isn’t defrosting as fast as you would like it to, be thankful your car makes it to work with no issues. That your car wasn’t broken into the night before, and that you are not running late.
* Instead of being overwhelmed with “having to do” laundry, be thankful that you have a washer/dryer at home, AND that your family has that over abundance of clothes that you get to wash their clothes.
Thankfulness or gratitude is not something we are born with. We need to train thoughts (or help our children) to be aware of what is around us. This isn’t easy but it’s worth it. Give it a try! Let me know if you need any help!
Blessings to you and your family this Thanksgiving.