The time of Thanksgiving is quickly approaching and during this time, we reflect on all of the things we are grateful for. The United States and Canada celebrate an official holiday each year that has historically been for expressing gratitude for the bountiful harvests and the blessings of the past year. Canada’s Thanksgiving falls on the 12th of October and is a perfect occasion to discuss the idea of gratitude and how embracing such can improve your quality of life.
All over the world, we reserve one or two days a year for days of giving thanks and gratitude. These days are to be spent with family and friends, appreciating all that our life has to offer and all that we have been given. We commemorate this holiday with celebrations, parades, sports matches, and feasts of epic proportions. Why though, do we limit ourselves and our gratitude to a couple days a year? Also, are we really addressing everything we are grateful for on these days, or only some of the more superficial or tangible blessings that we have received?
It is not uncommon for us, as human beings, to focus on what is wrong in our lives or in the world. Not because we are pessimists or sadists, but because we encounter many difficulties most frequently and these are the issues we feel need to be addressed. If you turn on the news, you are plagued with images of a world in disarray and turmoil. In our own personal lives, we are also subject to our own fair share of hardships and situations that may cause us to worry or fret. In some instances, we feel as though we have been dealt a bad hand and we have a tendency to focus on the negative.
In order to move past our negative feelings and to truly appreciate all that we are, we must learn to practice gratitude in our every day lives. Gratitude can be defined as, “the quality of being thankful, or readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” The practice of gratitude is not reserved only for situations where we have been blessed or where we have been recipients of kindness though. Gratitude and gratefulness can exist in all dimensions and in all different situations, good and bad. We are not accustomed to this frame of thinking though, and for many it is hard to understand how we could be grateful when the world can be so cruel and unfair. The key to understanding gratitude, is the understanding that there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for. And better yet, practicing and embracing this gratitude allows you to experience more joy and happiness in your every day life, despite the unfortunate circumstances you may encounter.
When learning to practice gratitude, it is necessary to look at the bigger picture. While what you are experiencing may not be favorable and you may feel as though you are at a disadvantage, you must expand your narrow focus to truly appreciate all that you have been given. Yes, you may be running thirty minutes late to work and stuck in traffic, but you have a job and a car. What a blessing that is! Yes, you may have recently been diagnosed with cancer and you have to start chemotherapy, but you have access to medical resources and doctors who are intent on helping you heal. We may have wars, but we have governments willing to protect us and men and women who defend our lives with their own. No matter how bleak the situation may seem, you cannot deny that every negative also has a positive. The world and the universe is keen on balance, and achieving this balance of thinking will ultimately make you appreciate the world and the gifts you’ve been given.
This is not to say that the practice of gratitude comes easily, however. Gratitude requires thoughtfulness and thoughtfulness requires an open mind. We must open ourselves to the possibilities of gratitude in all that we do. When we begin to feel bogged down by negative feelings and emotions, we must create a safe space to reflect on what it is that makes those situations better. Creating a list of things you can be grateful for on a daily basis is a wonderful reminder that nothing is as bad as it seems.
So today, we give thanks. Tomorrow, we should do the same. And in every moment we should walk with a renewed sense of appreciation for all that is in this universe, and then we can truly know the value of happiness and gratitude.