Practicing Gratitude and the Real Meaning of Thanksgiving
If our minds are in a good place, we can find many things to be grateful for and it's almost impossible to feel grateful and depressed at the same time.
As the Thanksgiving holiday comes and goes, it’s important to practice gratitude. Which isn’t always easy because our minds are constantly telling us what’s wrong with our lives while dreaming up scenarios that would make everything better. As this plays out, we tend to lose focus on much of what’s going right. That said, if we can only keep our minds in a good place, we’ll surely find many things to be grateful for. On top of that, it’s almost impossible to feel grateful and depressed at the same time.
Any person who’s lived long enough to tell about it will say that gratitude is something that grows with age. Not to say you won’t come across a grateful young person from time to time, but our aspirations take a hit as we go through life which is something many young people won’t understand until they get a bit older. For those of us who’ve lived some good years, it’s hard to keep the right attitude as life unfolds. However, an attitude of gratitude is one of the best weapons against the array of events revealed over the course of a lifetime.
Let’s face it, we’re all going to go through some things in life, but it’s no reason to lose hope. In fact, several inspirational characters (fictional and real life) were almost at the point of despair before things changed. For example, Rocky Balboa didn’t learn what he was capable of until he spent some of his best years scraping the bottom of the barrel. I understand he’s just a character in a movie, but it’s a metaphor for life and a good lesson on facing challenges because things tend to get worse if we don’t.
It’s not necessarily fun think about the end of life, but if we did know our life was coming to an end (perhaps tomorrow or next week), what things might we take pleasure in today? Maybe the height of a tall building? The rising and setting of the sun? Or maybe we’d finally discover that we weren’t the center of the universe after all. Just some food for thought.
Show gratitude by doing the little things:
Say hello and thank you
Listen to classical music or meditate
Volunteer your time
Listen and make eye contact
Give encouragement and compliments
It’s almost impossible to show gratitude and not have it show on your face. If you think you can frown and be grateful at the same time, give it a try. You’re almost one hundred percent likely to fail. An element of gratitude pulls up your spirit and definitely makes it easier to take things with a grain of salt, even to the point of bringing a smile to your face.
There’s a human element in acknowledging the presence of another person because let’s face it, we’re all human and we’re going through this life together whether we know it or not. It may be harder to acknowledge the presence of certain people, but we just don’t know everything another person is going through. A small smile, hello or thank you might work wonders to change somebody’s day.
The right chords from some of the great classical artist will almost always put your mood in the right place. Meditation seems to have the same effect as well, but it takes much more effort and mental strength. But when your working and you need to drown out the noise and focus, put on your headphones and summon assist from Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart or any one of the greats.
A good way to take the focus off yourself (and your problems) is to be of use to someone else. Especially out of the goodness of your own heart and not for any type of reward.
There’s something to be said for a good tipper. If you live in a busy city or you’re on vacation, your interactions with waitstaff will most likely be a one-time deal. That said, a good tip leaves a good impression. At the end of the day, your waiter/waitress will be grateful to have waited on you.
Patience is a virtue and a child needs a reasonable parent more than anything. It’s especially needed when dealing with small children. I’ve learned this over the past year in dealing with my first child, which is something to be grateful for. Nine months in, my patience is tested almost on a daily basis. However, I’m hoping that the benefits of keeping my cool will pay off in the long run.
When something good happens in the life of someone else, be the first one to offer congratulations. Come to think of it, good things take a while to manifest. They certainly don’t happen often (over the course of a lifetime). That said, the chances of something great happening to you today are slim. But if you’re around when something good happens to someone else, be happy for that person because most days are spent just slugging along.
It’s only natural to want to hog the spotlight, especially in a conversational setting. But if you’re grateful that somebody else actually wants to have a conversation with you, then you may even open your ears and listen to what they have to say. Who knows, you may even learn something from what they have to say. And the right amount of eye contact makes for a good connection, although too much can be creepy and weird.
Nobody wants to come off as too soft or complacent, but compliments and encouragement can go a long way towards the confidence of others. Encouragement also displays confidence and contentment in an individual because if he/she feels threatened, no compliments will be given.
From time to time, pride tends to get in the way of a sincere apology. But since we’re only human, we’re quite good at making messes. The ability to apologize should come built-in, but most times it’s the hardest thing to do.