Zippety Doo, it’s Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving. It’s a holiday that combines some of my favorite things: spending time with people I love over a super-long weekend — without presents or wrapping paper and with piles and piles of roasted Brussels sprouts. Sigh. I do love it so.
Most importantly, though, Thanksgiving reminds me to be grateful. Really grateful. I’ve learned a bunch of things in my life, but none more essential than the power of gratitude. Thankfulness, in my experience, leads to happiness. Gratitude reminds me how very lucky I am.
In fact, we all are. By the very fact that you are reading these words, you are among the fortunate of the fortunate on this planet. You are using a device (even if it is borrowed or shared) on which you have connected to the World Wide Internet Web! That alone indicates that you have access to far more resources than an enormous percentage of the world population. And I mean, enormous (get a wealth reality check here).
So there’s that. Which is huge. Plus all the other reasons like food and friends and nature’s bounteous giving. But even given the overwhelming reasons I have to be thankful, I’m amazed at how often I forget and get grumbly. Which is both ridiculous and a bummer since the more gratitude I feel, the happier, kinder, more peaceful I am.
Do you notice this, too? Do you find yourself feeling cranky and put-upon smack dab in the middle of a highly gratitude-worthy life? Why is that?
Me? Mostly, I forget. I get distracted, or busy, or entangled in minutiae, and I am just too cluttered up to be thankful. What gets in the way of your gratitude? What stops you from saying “Holy Moly, thank the goodnesses for everything that is happening!”? Is it anxiety or physical pain or emotional hurt? Is it habit?
Noticing my “gratitudinal roadblocks,” that which stops me from feeling thankful, helps me take a breath and make another choice. To help in this, I’ve used a handful of gratitude practices to remind myself to pay attention: to be on the lookout for wondrousness (more on that here) and for things getting in my way like complaining, criticizing and gossiping (more on that here. And yes, I am still wearing my Complaint-Free bracelet and last spring I did go 21 days without complaining!).
Practices or no, whatever you can do to connect to gratitude is worth doing. Gratitude is the quickest path to happiness I know. Allow yourself to feel grateful: for the big things like health and family, for the things we take for granted like water that comes out of the faucet and then goes down the drain, and even for the things that we struggle with or that give us pain.
I think it’s impossible to be truly happy and ungrateful. But I think there’s even more to it than the feeling of thankfulness. Tomorrow, I’ll write about some insights on gratitude based on the graces at my summer camp and from studying Spanish.