Next week is Thanksgiving, a day we all focus on gratitude. This year, we encourage you to take the “attitude of gratitude” challenge and live Thanksgiving throughout the year!
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. The best way to put them in perspective is to learn to appreciate them.
From my personal experience, financial problems led my husband and I to start Compass Catholic, which has been such a blessing in our lives. And in turn, we have been able to bless others and change lives as people learn how to be good stewards. What challenging circumstances have you experienced that can be (or has been) used for good?
If you’re struggling with being grateful, think about the people you spend the most time with. Maybe everyone at work grumbles about the office, the work, other employees, and the boss. Or maybe your neighbors are constantly complaining about the other neighbors. And there is always someone in the family irritated at someone else in the family. That kind of thinking can interfere with your ability to see the good surrounding you. What can you do to take the lead and change the environment by refusing to engage when those conversations start?
At bedtime each of us can spend a few moments in silence to reflect on our day and say a prayer of thanksgiving about the things we experienced during our waking hours. We are showered with blessings from God each and every minute of the day and night and it is right to acknowledge those blessings. How can you remember to say a small prayer of gratitude each night?
Touching, seeing, smelling, tasting, and hearing help us to appreciate the miracle it is to be alive. Once we start noticing the small things around us, it’s easy to get out of our natural tendency to see what is wrong and instead focus on all the little blessings we receive daily. What small blessings have you received today?
Start a “Gratitude Journal” by taking time each day or once a week to write down the things for which you are grateful. Being consciously grateful helps you discover what you take for granted–family, friends, job, freedom, birds, sunsets, the very air you breathe. This list can go on and on. Yet each of these things, no matter how important or mundane, is a gift from God for which we need to be thankful. Do you have an empty notebook you can use as a gratitude journal?
Another way to bring gratitude into your everyday life is to have each person at the dinner table announce three things that happened that day for which they are grateful. In a family with young children this can range from the amusing (“I am grateful I didn’t have to sit next to any girls on the bus.”) To the profound (“I am grateful I got to see Grandma today–she is getting old.”) But whether or not there are children in the family, the gratefulness discussion at meals can provide fodder for discussions and keep gratitude at the forefront. Are you willing to start this tradition at dinner tonight?
Look for opportunities to thank people and tell them how much they mean to you. It is so easy to send a thank-you email, or text, or phone call, but the best way to show gratitude is to actually mail a hand-written thank-you card. The person who gets it will know you took the extra time and thought and they will appreciate your efforts that much more. Plus, you’ll get the added bonus of feeling grateful a little longer than usual as you write out each note. And who doesn’t like to get something personal in the mail, which is such a rarity these days? When you say thanks, be specific. Instead of using general phrases like “thanks for your help,” one of the best ways to show your gratitude is to acknowledge something specific about how they helped or what their help meant to you. Who do you need to thank?
Along with gratitude comes contentment, a deep and fulfilling inner peace, which no material item can ever provide. It’s knowing that your loving heavenly father is providing you with exactly what he knows is best. It’s not that we shouldn’t try to improve ourselves. We should. As stewards of God’s possessions and the talents we’ve been given, we should always seek to improve in all areas. But the effort to improve our situation should never outpace a feeling of contentment and gratitude for our current situation.
If you struggle with gratitude and contentment, turn off the television, quit surfing the net, close the catalogues and take the time to remember what giving thanks is all about. Cherish the moments with your friends, family, and loved ones, and understand that those precious moments are worth more than all the material goods in the world.
The poorest people can be content, while all the money in the world can’t make you content. Look at all the wealthy people who are miserable. Being grateful and content has nothing to do with how much stuff you have or how new your stuff is or how much money you have. It has everything to do with acknowledging all the gifts God has bestowed on you.
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.