My thoughts have been turned toward traditions. We all have different ways of showing and expressing our gratitude, and choosing to be grateful might require a little more effort.
The family on one of our favorite T.V. shows has a gratitude list where everyone contributes to a running list during the week of Thanksgiving. Others I know keep a gratitude journal for the month of November to reflect on the good in their lives. Our family goes around the Thanksgiving table and gives everyone a minute to express their gratitude for something from the last year. Sometimes the list is the same, sometimes there is something new.
I feel grateful for a Holiday that reminds me to show gratitude, but I wonder why is my appreciation for the good so easily blended into the background of my life rather than being the motivating and driving force. We spend a month each year reflecting on gratitude, yet for the rest of the year, we allow the mundane tasks of life place a shadow on all what we are blessed with.
We take for granted the blessings and comforts we enjoy daily and revert to more of an attitude of self-satisfaction and entitlement. I don’t think this is deliberate. When we really think about it, we want to be more grateful, but it is difficult to consistently feel gratitude when our trials and burdens can seem so overwhelming.
In 1897 Johnson Oatman Jr. wrote a song of the hope gratitude can offer.
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
It seems like an easy solution. Count your blessings = comfort, joy, and happiness. The science of the concept is proving to be true. New studies are popping up each year verifying that a person’s efforts to show and express their gratitude on a regular basis have a positive effect on their overall well-being. Findings show “thankfulness, or gratitude [is] a powerful instigator of better mental health, more positive brain function, and associated health benefits.”
I’ve decided to take a step back and contemplate my own personal traditions, and have come up with a new one. I want to focus on something each day to feel grateful for and then find a way to express it. Thanksgiving will not just be one day of gratitude, but one of 365 days. We can all make a choice to be grateful, to express our appreciation, and to look for the good. It is difficult to remain overwhelmed with the negativity that surrounds us daily if we have gratitude in our hearts.
Be the JOY,