What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Thanksgiving? Pilgrims and native Americans coming together? Mountains of food at the table? Family football or naps on the couch? Or perhaps it’s even black Friday shopping! While all of these things are relatable, we often forget the true purpose behind this holiday. Thanksgiving is time to celebrate and reflect upon all the blessings you have received over the past year. The real question is, why?
Before we get there, let’s talk about gratitude. This is the quality of being thankful. Readiness to show appreciation and to return kindness. Gratitude is deeper than a simple thank you, but rather a deep appreciation for someone or something resulting in longer lasting thankfulness. Gratitude gives us an opportunity to look outside of ourselves.
It can be easy to show gratitude in times of prosperity or blessing, but gratitude can also be found in undesirable circumstances. Ask yourself these questions: What is good about this? What can I learn from this? How can I or others benefit? Is there something about this situation that I can be grateful for? Of course, there are circumstances in life that are very difficult and these questions are not to be used to belittle the hard emotions you are experiencing. However, gratitude can be used to make meaning, change perspectives, and create opportunity for growth.
So why should we practice gratitude? Gratitude has been shown to increase happiness by 25%, and not only that, but also causes that happiness and positivity to extend longer. Due to this, gratitude is inversely related to depression. Additionally, gratitude allows you to step outside yourself, which inevitably draws you closer to others. So through your own gratitude you can create more meaningful relationships with others, which in turn inspires others to practice gratitude. Think of gratitude as contagious; others will see your thankfulness and be inspired to start the practice themselves. Gratitude can change your attitude by taking the focus off yourself and placing it onto something much bigger than you. You will often find you become more humble and more thankful for the simple things in life.
Knowing all this, it can still be difficult to know how to practice gratitude and where to even start! Here are some practical ideas to help you practice gratitude in your daily life:
- Journaling or making a list of 3 things you are grateful for each morning
- Practicing gratitude before meal time, with your spouse, roommate, or family (you can go around the table and share-this is a great way to model gratitude for your children)
- Find something symbolic to help remind yourself of gratitude, and each time you see it think of something you’re grateful for
- A gratitude walk – Find beautiful things surrounding you and simply appreciate them
My challenge to you is to start working gratitude into your everyday life. What a better time to start than the season dedicated to thankfulness!