Our culture urges us to buy, buy, buy and Thanksgiving Day is the only time our society encourages thankfulness. Even that attempt gets diluted by the focus on joining the mad shopping rush on Thanksgiving evening, before the turkey leftovers are cold in the refrigerator.
A large part of giving thanks is recognizing all the blessings we already have and learning to be content. Contentment is in short supply in our country because the advertising industry spends mind boggling amounts of money to create discontent in our minds.
A good reliable used car isn’t good enough. A new car is better. A phone that does everything you need it to do isn’t good enough, if it’s not the latest model. We live in a consumer society that operates on the assumptions that we need to keep purchasing everything we see. It influences us to think happiness is based on acquiring stuff because bigger and more expensive is always better.
That mindset influences us to be discontent no matter what we have. And discontent leads people to buy things they don’t really need and things that will never really satisfy them. Anything you buy in an effort to make yourself happy will not make you happy for more than a few days.
Have you ever felt that “if only” you had more money, the new car or the bigger house, then you’d finally be content? If you’re not content with where God has you today, you’ll never be content when you get that nicer home, that newer car, or more money.
You can fall into this trap whether you have a modest income or a generous one. How much you have is not a happiness indicator. A person can be dirt poor and be happy and content while someone with all the money in the world can be unhappy and discontent.
How many times do we feel like we have enough? As stewards of God’s gifts and the talents we’ve been given, we should always seek to improve everything about our lives. But in the meantime, part of being a good faithful steward is learning to appreciate what the Lord has already provided. In the book of Tobit 5:19 we read “What the Lord has given us to live on is certainly enough for us.”
Here’s the secret of contentment. It’s realizing that the Lord has given us exactly what he knows is best for us for the moment. Contentment is an inner peace that accepts what God has chosen for our present situation.
It’s being grateful for what we have and appreciating all the blessings in our life without striving for some magic thing to happen in the future when we think we can finally achieve some level of happiness.
Owen Phelps, Ph.D. Director, Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute, suggested that one of the ways to be more grateful is to use a “Gratitude Journal.” Take time each week to write down the things for which you are grateful to focus on those small things that often escape notice but are so important.
Discover all those blessings you take for granted–like your job, your family, freedom, birds, the very air you breathe. The list of things we each take for granted can go on and on. Yet each of these things, no matter how important or mundane, is a gift from God.
Gratitude doesn’t have to be saved for the “big” things in life. The habit of being grateful starts with appreciating everything, and recognizing that there is nothing too small to be thankful for. Don’t leave anything out when practicing gratitude.
Another way to bring gratitude into your everyday life is to have each person at the dinner table share three things that happened that day for which they are grateful. The gratefulness discussion at meals can provide fodder for deeper discussions and keep gratitude at the forefront.
At the end of each day spend a few moments in silence to reflect on your day and say a prayer of thanksgiving about the things you experienced during your waking hours. Doing this every day will rewire your brain to naturally discover those things for which you are grateful.
It only takes 30 days to develop a habit, so try the thankfulness prayer at the end of the day for a month. Once you become naturally more grateful, you’ll start feeling happier each day.
When we think about being grateful, we often think about the positive experiences, but many times the experiences that impact us the most and have a way of moving us forward are life’s challenges. Those challenging circumstances give us ways to grow and change that could not have happened any other way. So learn to appreciate them.
If you’re struggling with being grateful, think about the people you spend the most time with. Maybe everyone at work complains about the office, the work, other employees and the boss. Or maybe your neighbors are constantly complaining about the other neighbors. That kind of thinking can interfere with your ability to see the good surrounding you. Why don’t you take the lead and change the environment by refusing to engage when those conversations start.
We are showered with blessings from God each and every minute of the day and night and it is right to acknowledge and be thankful for those blessings. This year, concentrate on ways to be consciously thankful every day instead of waiting for Thanksgiving to jog your mind about being grateful.
“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15
Join the Compass Catholic Podcast for more ideas about ways to be consciously content and grateful.