Thanksgiving is right around the corner, most of us are consumed with plans we have with family and friends, the food we have to buy to create a special dish for the big feast and perhaps a bit stressed with the scrambling we must do to make it all happen and still fulfill our other responsibilities. If we break the word Thanksgiving down, we can get a better sense of what this day is all about.
I believe this quote by Maya Angelou sums it up perfectly: “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”
When we give with benevolence from our heart and we accept and be thankful for all the blessings we have in this life, we have gratitude. Having gratitude is to be thankful, to count all of our blessings, to notice the simple pleasures in life, and to acknowledge everything we receive. Gratitude means learning to live our life as if everything were a miracle, and being aware on a continuous basis of how much we’ve been given. When we have gratitude we shift our focus from what our life lacks to the abundance that’s already present. When we have much gratitude in our lives it’s a lot easier to give to others because we can be empathetic for what others don’t have.
Recently a teacher of mine was doing relief work in Haiti in a village where the inhabitants had to walk five miles down a mountain to retrieve water for drinking. A gentleman approached her and asked, “I heard this, but can’t believe it to be true ... that you have so much water in America you urinate in it.” Hearing this was a shock to me, here we are in a drought and all I could think about is how little water we have, but yes, we have enough we do urinate in it.
Recent behavioral and psychological research from the Southern Methodist University in Dallas and the University of California at Davis has shown the surprising life improvements that can stem from the practice of gratitude. This research shows giving thanks makes people happier and more resilient, it strengthens relationships, improves health, and reduces stress.
I challenge each and every one of you to start practicing gratitude today and every day leading up to Thanksgiving. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Start a gratitude journal: Every day first thing in the morning and/or prior to going to bed write down 3-10 things for which you’re grateful.
Write a gratitude letter: Write a letter to a person who has exerted a positive influence in your life but who you haven’t properly thanked.
Create a gratitude charm bracelet: These charms represent the things you’re most grateful for and are good reminders throughout the day.
Live in the present moment: For each moment we have is a present we should treasure. Savor every experience you have for life is a wonderful adventure filled with endless possibilities.
Give to others: There really is nothing more rewarding in this world than helping others, whether that be with your children or a stranger. This activity doesn’t only make you feel great about yourself, it also makes you value what you have in your life. Sponsor a child’s education, give clothes and books to charity, volunteer to feed the homeless or with an organization you truly believe in. This practice can be as simple as giving someone a smile, a phone call, a compliment or a hug.
Practicing gratitude consistently will fill every day with love, life and joy no matter what challenges lay ahead.