Although the Thanksgiving holiday serves as a good reminder for us to pause and count our blessings, the truth is that gratitude represents an attitude and actions that we can seek to cultivate every day of the year. In addition to improving our relationships with others, expressing our thanks offers many other benefits.
Some quotes and thoughts about gratitude:
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” (William Arthur Ward)
When we appreciate someone and we tell them how we feel, we offer them a gift that may stay with them longer and mean more to them than any material item we might give them. Try the five-to-one positive-to-negative comment ratio, not only in your conversations with others, but in your inner dialogue with yourself. For every negative or discouraging thought or sentence you notice yourself conjuring up, do your best to come up with five appreciative or encouraging ideas or comments.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” (John F. Kennedy)
Words of thanksgiving can be powerful. What’s even more significant is to live in such a way that we honor those who have put time, energy, and thought into encouraging and helping us. Our existence can be a living “thank you”. This can get us — and others — through many a dark day.
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn, or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.” (Denis Waitley)
A lot of research has shown that if one of your goals is to increase your level of happiness (and this is high on the list for most of us), gratitude will help get you there.
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” (Albert Schweitzer)
Can you think of an instance when somebody’s kindness or demonstration of faith in you made the difference between your persevering with a task (or even with life itself) and giving up? If so, allow this memory to warm your heart. If possible and appropriate, perhaps you could contact that person and thank them, or offer your help to them – or use your experience to encourage you to be that light for other people. It’s hard to feel useless or lacking in purpose once we realize how deeply we can affect other people in a positive way.
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” (Robert Brault)
Most of us live the majority of our lives either thinking about the past or the future, instead of appreciating what’s right in front of us. Try to pay more attention to the present moment and notice what blessings exist in your life right now. It could be your spouse’s kindness or humor, your cat’s purring and softness, or a warm fireplace. Instead of waiting for some monumental moment to occur, allow yourself to really soak in the wonder in your life right now, just as it is.
“The way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.” (Charles Schwab)
In other words, see the oak tree in the acorn. Believe in a person’s potential, including the person looking at you in the mirror. What you focus on, grows. Which would you rather hone in on, the problem or the solution? Just about everybody has potential and gifts that are just waiting to be noticed and thanked.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” (Albert Einstein)
Which will you choose? Can you imagine how your life might change if you tried the latter? Life itself is a miracle. Make a list of at least ten amazing things you encounter every day. Plants turning toward the sun, the moon and stars, feelings of love, a good-natured smile from a stranger, how your friend calls just when you were thinking of them, how hair and nails grow, how we digest food and turn it into energy… Examples of miracles are everywhere.
“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” (Alphonse Karr)
As a gardener who loves roses, I can vouch for the fact that those thorns can be painful – but the roses are more than worth it.
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” (Marcus Tullius Cicero)
In other words, gratitude is the foundation of emotional and spiritual maturity. Thankfulness is the antidote for many troubling emotions and tendencies such as resentment, impatience, self-centeredness, and fear.
“Gratitude is the ability to experience life as a gift. It liberates us from the prison of self-preoccupation.” (John Ortberg)
We are not entitled to life, and from this perspective everything is a gift. There’s no denying that tragedies occur in life, and we are not expected to be grateful for such occurrences. At the same time, though, we can always find something to give thanks for in our lives. We can actually be grateful for adversity, because in adversity our character is tested and molded by how we respond to the challenge. We aren’t judged by what adversity we’ve faced in our lives, but by how we deal with the adversity. When we go the gym and lift the weights, the amount of resistance (weight) we lift is what builds strength. So it is with other challenges. For this chance, we can be grateful, if not for the nature of the emotional, physical, or spiritual weight itself.
“When we replace a sense of service and gratitude with a sense of entitlement and expectation, we quickly see the demise of our relationships, society, and economy.” (Steve Maraboli)
Practicing gratitude helps not only our personal well-being and lifts up those in our immediate vicinity, but it can profoundly change our world for the better. At times of financial, societal, and political strife such as the present, we are not helpless. While we don’t have the ability to exact every change we might like, living with an attitude of thanksgiving and consideration of how we can contribute can significantly affect those in our immediate vicinity and beyond.