Bearing witness to the tragedies, injustices and violence all around the world can make it terribly difficult to feel grateful.
Yet, here in the United States, we are embarking on the holiday season, starting with the very holiday that is based on none other than giving thanks.
If you are anything like me, celebrating during a time when so many are suffering can feel self-serving or trite.
Or, if you have experienced tremendous loss, pain or suffering, feeling grateful can feel forced. Still, it’s at these times when the celebration of holidays, such as Thanksgiving, holds even more significance.
At Thanksgiving, specifically, we are given an opportunity to reflect and remember all of the good for which we should be grateful. It helps us take stock of the positive in our own lives, and to feel blessed for friends, family, health, and whatever good fortune we do have. And, it causes us to look beyond ourselves and see the greater good.
If, however, you’re struggling to feel grateful this year, a few simple changes to HOW you practice gratitude may help you reach a deeper, more meaningful practice:
- Start Small. It is easy to take day-to-day things for granted. And, yet, simply acknowledging those everyday things can be a good way to get past the negativity that may be preventing us from seeing the bigger picture. The air we breathe, the love of a friend or a pet, a job, a sunny day can all be things for which we can feel grateful. Start here to get your gratitude juices flowing.
- Focus on the Intangible. Although we should be thankful for basic needs, such as food, shelter and the clothes on our back, being thankful for non-material goods, such as family, friends, relationships, and other non-material aspects of life is even more important. We can replace tangible items, but when it comes to relationships, those are uniquely important.
- Get Deep. Although we may be grateful for many, getting really specific about one thing can bring your gratitude to a deeper, more significant level. Uncovering the emotion behind your gratitude makes your appreciation richer. For instance, if you are thankful for a person in your life, go beyond a simple “I’m thankful for so and so” and specify three to five things about them that cause you to feel grateful.
- Look Beyond Your World. It is natural to look within our own lives when we are trying to come up with things for which we are thankful. Practicing gratitude, however, can go way beyond our own little world. Instead, we can be grateful for things on a community level, or even a global or universal scale. For instance, maybe there is someone who has made a dramatic positive change in your community. Maybe you are grateful for the simple idea that there is life on our planet, the ocean, the wind that blows through the trees, and the beauty of the night sky. All of these things are meaningful.
- Express Yourself. Expressing your gratitude outwardly makes it more real, especially when it’s for another individual. Write a letter, email or a note to a person for whom you are grateful. Or, instead of just sending holiday cards to your broader network, select five of your closest friends or family members and write personal thank you cards for everything they do and for everything they are to you.
- Expand Gratitude. Thanksgiving is a great time to share your gratitude with others. At the dinner table, start the meal off by telling your guests what you are most thankful for and encourage them to do the same. And, if someone is in a difficult place in their own lives, try to help them benefit from the practice of gratitude by working with them to see the positive. Walk them through some of the above. Your gift of gratitude is a display of love.
How do you practice gratitude? How often do you do so?
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