There are some days……Okay, there are some YEARS where it’s hard to see the silver lining. On top of your own crazy, add healthy doses of political, environmental, economic, and five other fill-in-the-blank types of chaos and it’s easy to get downright negative. Even depressed. Then come the holidays with the expectation of feeling euphoric and having the perfect family. It’s hardly a framework for feeling grateful.
If that’s where you find yourself, we are here to provide a little perspective - may be even a needed attitude adjustment - and help you with expressing your gratitude this holiday season!
So why be grateful? And what does expressing gratitude look like? Read on!
What does it mean to be thankful?
We are usually told not to compare ourselves to others, but in this case, it may prove a powerful tool in moving our gratitude meter. These statistics are meant to help you see your lot in life through new eyes. Did you know…..
How to be grateful
It may be hard to translate cold statistics into personal gratefulness if your life is fraught with family stress, illness, financial concerns, or overwhelming responsibilities. But it’s all about focus. Philippians 4:8 in the New Testament may say it best “…… whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
If you keep your eyes only on what is going wrong or what is hard in your life, your attitude and behavior will mirror that. And it won’t affect only you, but also everyone in your life. If you choose gratefulness for what you do have and how much better off you are than so many around the world, then you can choose joy despite your circumstances. Putting a face to some of those statistics by reading stories of people in hard situations, or even meeting them personally, can be powerful, as well.
Recognize the people who support you
Another thing to help giving thanks take hold is to identify who you are grateful to. Being thankful inherently means there is an object of your gratitude. Who helped you get that job, supported you through addiction recovery, has been there for you while going to school, helped you financially? Who had your back? Whether you credit your spouse, parents, friends, God, or someone else, it’s important to acknowledge the support you have had along the way. You may have pulled yourself up by your bootstraps, and it’s okay to pat yourself on the back, but you didn’t do it alone.
Once you’ve identified who deserves your gratitude, it’s time for a little show and tell. Rather than keeping those thoughts of thankfulness to yourself, spread some cheer by expressing your gratitude this holiday season. Be intentional. Acknowledge your gratefulness in a written note or card; pick up the phone; visit them; give an unexpected gift. And if you realize that God Himself is your provider, maybe say a prayer of thanksgiving and carve out some time for Him, too. “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” Psalm 9:1
How to express gratitude
Ready to take it one step further? You can increase your gratefulness even more by taking the focus off of yourself and putting it on those less fortunate than you. Could you volunteer your time at a homeless shelter? “Adopt” a child in poverty with a monthly gift? Visit a widow in your neighborhood? Babysit for a single mom? The opportunities are limitless. Not only does serving others help you forget about your problems, but it can also boost your sense of happiness to know that you made a difference in someone’s life.
A final tip for giving thanks and fostering an attitude of gratefulness is to keep a simple journal where you jot down the things and the people you are grateful for. One quick entry a day will help you remember what’s important. Also, make a habit of thanking someone or saying a prayer of thanksgiving every day.
As you practice gratefulness, you may be surprised that you start to feel a little lighter. Why? Because expressing gratitude as a way of life isn’t just an ethereal act. It has scientifically proven benefits. According to Forbes magazine, gratefulness opens the door to more relationships, improves physical health, improves psychological health, enhances empathy, reduces aggression, improves sleep, improves self-esteem, and increases mental strength. Yes, please!
Thanksgiving and Christmas are almost here. Being thankful may just be your best gift – to yourself and others. Why not give it freely this holiday season and turn your Thanks-giving into Thanks-living all year long?
P.S. Thanks for reading! We’re glad you are part of the Ottawa University blog community.
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