An American client of mine mentioned the other day that she was gearing herself up towards preparing for Thanksgiving, and it started me thinking how good it would be if we were all to have a similar celebration. Even though the roots of this American and Canadian festival are in giving thanks for the harvest of the previous year, wouldn’t it be nice if it were a global celebration of appreciation for so much more than that?
Studies have shown that developing an attitude of gratitude can increase our wellbeing and happiness. And isn’t happiness something that everyone wants? Mother Theresa is quoted as saying “There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread”, and I’m sure that’s true. It’s a desire that every human being shares with everyone else, but from the way that some people, nations, and religious groups act towards each other, you might sometimes wonder if the human race is capable of recognising this basic aspiration as a wish that is common to all man and womankind.
There is a very definite link between being happy and feeling grateful, for happiness is born from gratitude. We’re not so much grateful because we’re happy, but happy because we’re grateful for something. Think about it. A person can have everything money can buy and still not be happy, because there’s something they haven’t got and they can’t seem to get it. And there are people who have very little in life and may in fact have suffered a great deal, but still manage to be happy. Why? Because they’re grateful for what they’ve got!
People tend to spend more time worrying about things they can’t have or don’t have than feeling appreciation for the beneficial things they DO have, or the good things that have already taken place in their lives. And then they wonder why they feel so dissatisfied. Contrast this with what Oprah Winfrey tells us: “I started out giving thanks for small things, and the more grateful I became, the more my bounty increased. That’s because what you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it. Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life”.
How, you may wonder, can you be grateful for EVERYTHING when there are so many bad things that can befall you? The answer is that it’s not so much about being grateful per se, but about being grateful for the opportunities which come into our lives all the time. And in every moment, no matter whether it’s a serious challenge or a positive event, there is the opportunity to choose to take something positive from it, to turn it around by looking at it with a different attitude. “Every moment is a new gift, over and over again, and if you miss the opportunity of this moment, another moment is given to us, and another moment. We can avail ourselves of this opportunity, or we can miss it. And if we avail ourselves of the opportunity, it is the key to happiness. Behold, the master key to our happiness is in our own hands. Moment by moment, we can be grateful for this gift”. Brother David Steindl-Rast, Monk and InterFaith Scholar.
Gratitude is something which can be cultivated in ourselves, even if we’re feeling pretty thankless! All you have to do is to start small (like Oprah describes) and look for the little things in life which you can appreciate. e.g a pretty bird in your garden, a squirrel running along your path, beams of sunshine coming through the windows, the bus driver who waited for you as you ran to catch the bus. Appreciate being able to put food in your belly, having a roof over your head, sleeping in a warm and comfortable bed, or having clean water to drink.
On a broader scale, appreciate all your happy memories; the good things that have come to you in life and the blessings you’ve received. Give thanks for the strength you’ve found to overcome challenges; be grateful for your friends, family, and colleagues; and let’s not forget to be grateful for the extraordinary kindness of strangers.
Gratitude reminds you of the positive things in your life and can turn bad things into good things. It can remind you of what’s important in your life and crucially, remind you to remember to thank others for their gifts, kindness and help. Simple acts of gratitude cost nothing and can cause you to be a ray of sunshine in someone else’s life!
Today is Thanksgiving, so why not spend some time thinking about what you are grateful for? Make a list. Put down everything you can think of and notice how your spirits soar as you do so! The latest brain research has shown that if you can spend 30 seconds six times a day in gratitude, (that’s just THREE minutes a day, folks!!), it will enable your neurons to fire together and start to become re-wired into gratitude thinking within two weeks! You’ll then be enabled to access feelings of gratitude more easily and frequently, which will be good for your health and wellbeing and which in turn will ripple out into your environment and help lift the spirits of others. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to make such difference with so little effort?
HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYBODY!
AND GRATEFUL THANKS TO ALL OF YOU WHO CONTINUE TO READ MY BLOGS!
GRATITUDE PRAYER (Anonymous)
Be thankful you don’t already have everything you desire. If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don’t know something for it gives you the opportunity to learn.
Be thankful for the difficult times. During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations because they give you opportunities for improvement.