Unemployment, mounting bills, concern about the future – with Thanksgiving around the corner, you may be wondering if you have anything to be thankful for. Despite the challenges of living in these tough times, it’s important to remember – you do.
When I was a child, I was taught that prayers should begin with a statement of gratitude. So at night before going to bed, I’d search my memory of the day and give thanks for things like the snow day the school had given me or an impromptu trip to the ice cream parlor with my mother after dance class. Today, I could look back on this and consider these little things to be childish or even insignificant, but the truth is those little things are what brought joy to my day and, often, gave them the most meaning.
Here’s the other thing you need to know: My childhood was far from easy or drama-free.
The point is, there is always much to be grateful for, even when life is difficult. When we’re adults, it’s just very easy to forget it. We tend to focus on what’s missing from our lives instead of being grateful for what we have. And we do have. It’s important to be thankful for the lungs that allow us to breathe; the hands, voice and brain that allow us to earn a living (or search for one if we’re unemployed); the people whose friendship, humor and support keeps us going when we’d rather give up; the resources we do have and the smiles we get from complete strangers throughout the day.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it’s easy to feel grateful during a crisis or when it feels like we’re spinning our wheels. I’m not saying everyone smiles back at you when you hold a door open for them, either. What I am saying is, by making a conscious choice to be grateful for what we do have, even the simplest of things, we not only stand a better chance of surviving tough times, we can actually turn them around. Rather than feel demoralized, we feel encouraged. Instead of staying broken, we start to heal. We replace despair with empowerment. Best part of all, by beginning a practice of daily gratitude we also attract more of what we’re grateful for. It’s funny, but the universe is just wired that way. Are you familiar with the law of attraction? “Like attracts like.” It’s as simple as that.
So how, exactly, does a person cultivate the power of gratitude and positive thinking? How do we attract more of what we want by being grateful for what we have? There are a few simple things I try to put into practice every day. They’ve made a huge difference in the way I view my life and, I think, what life is delivering back to me in return.
- Every morning, think of ten things that you’re thankful for. They don’t have to be monumental. Your list can include the feel of the breeze through your open window in the morning. Think you’re too busy to do this? I make my list during my commute to work in the morning, so my day begins with a positive outlook.
- Make it a point to say “thank you” to people for their kindness, from a friend’s thoughtful phone call to the person who bagged your groceries or the customer service rep whose friendly demeanor made solving your problem that much easier.
- Be thankful for everything – the food you eat and everyone whose involvement got that food to your table (from the farmer who produced it to the person who rang it up at the grocery store). Be thankful for the clothes you own, the car you drive or the public transportation that gets you where you need to go, and the money you do have to pay your bills. Always remember, by complaining or thinking you have too little of something, you diminish the gratitude for what you do have. This all goes back to the law of attraction again.
- Before you go to sleep each night, recount all of the good things that happened during the day, no matter how small, and say thank you, out loud, for the best thing that happened. By focusing on all of the good that happened throughout the day, you put your mind in a positive state before drifting off to sleep.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to reflect on what we’re thankful for but, really, it takes daily practice to make gratitude a habit. Habitual gratitude eventually gives way to positive thinking and, ultimately, manifests the good things we want and need in our lives. As Epicurus once said, “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” Your future, then, depends on your gratitude for today.
photo credit: jameswoodward.wordpress.com