Thanksgiving in Everyday Living
Finding moments of Thanksgiving in Everyday Living
A Challenge of Gratitude
By Charity Hagains MA, LPC-S
November marks the true start of the holiday season for many among us. Christmas decorations appear in plenty at local stores, families begin to plan for Thanksgiving gatherings and holiday parties. The school year is in full swing as kids finish off Halloween candy and prepare themselves for school parties and winter break. As the temperature cools down and the holidays gather steam we become, in a word, busy.
Just when we thought we couldn’t fit anything else onto our plate, we find our selves with even more to do. The over scheduled calendar of meetings, school functions, little league sports, social events, and career commitments stretch us thin, and that’s on a good day. Add holiday planning to that and things can seem out of control. Rushing between to-do, must-do, and can’t do without, we often feel anything but gratitude come Thanksgiving day.
Their is a lot of detailed research focused on gratitude. Psychologists and therapists have written entire books on it: how to recognize it, the importance of it, the necessity of it in our society. Gratitude has been microscopically examined, and what did we learn from all of this investigative research? We learned that gratitude makes us happy. I could explain it in a lengthier and more complicated format, but bottom line…we feel joy when we acknowledge and express gratitude. Even better is that the more we express gratitude, the more we feel joyful. The more we feel joyful, the more we express gratitude.
So the question becomes, “how can we do that?” How can we start this cycle of positivity? How can we rush around day after day, budgeting our time and our finances and still be able to fully and authentically express gratitude?
This is where I would normally put in a very organized and easily readable bulleted list of “tips for blah, blah, blah…” But you can’t really do that with gratitude. There isn’t a bulleted list of achievable goals for the expression of gratitude (or any emotion).
Gratitude is appreciation for not just the things in our life we couldn’t stand to loose, but those things in our life that we embrace as happy surprises and blessed moments. The big items like family, health, and togetherness are usually the first things that come to mind when someone brings up gratitude. These are the items people will likely list off first around the Thanksgiving table, and yes they are of high priority to each of us, but they aren’t all that we can feel gratitude for. Quite the opposite in fact. Sometimes these highly valued areas of our lives bring feelings of entitlement with them. We often feel that we put so much effort into our high priority items that we are comfortable with the benefits of those, that we deserve those things to go well. “I am grateful for my health, but I also eat well and exercise, so I expect to be healthy.” See what I mean?
So this month I don’t have a bulleted list of “how to be more grateful.” Instead I offer you a challenge this Thanksgiving season. I challenge you to look for smaller moments that you can acknowledge gratitude for. They are well hidden between the to-do lists and soccer game schedules. Under the dirty laundry and stuffed between files, these moments are an every day occurrence that we are usually far too busy to notice or express joy for having had. Those moments that we couldn’t do anything to make happen except notice and acknowledge. A beautiful sky, a child’s laugh, a sense of momentary peace, those experiences that happen everyday, but that we often fail to fully experience.
In that moment take a deep breath and mentally or verbally acknowledge that it happened and that you are grateful for having been able to see and feel it. Start each day with the intention of finding that treasure that awaits you in your daily struggle. I challenge you to live fully this holiday season, and I hope you will enjoy this game of hide and seek because the rewards are bountiful.