I love Thanksgiving because it is a reminder to us all that we need to be grateful for what we have — and the Pilgrims didn’t have much. Mostly they had hardships, but they still believed in gratitude.
The thing that eludes most of us is that this feeling of gratefulness needs to be part of our daily lives and be reflected in our behaviors, especially with those we love. Unfortunately, with the rigors of daily life, we can easily forget that we need to be thankful for whatever we have — even if our life isn’t what we think it should be.
You can’t bargain with gratitude. For example, it doesn’t work to say, “I’ll be grateful when I get this deal done or when he or she says they love me.” If gratitude isn’t a constant in your mental universe, then you may be pushing away some of what you want. Even if what you’re thinking goes unspoken, others will pick up on your attitude.
Creating the habit of gratitude is something that will serve you in all areas of your life. Those who are grateful have less resentment and are usually happier people. The benefits can even extend to your physical wellbeing, and nothing says “I love you” to your partner more than being grateful that he or she is in your life.
Having an attitude of gratitude tells the people we love that we not only appreciate them but also admire and respect them. This feeling gets communicated in all that we do with and for each other. It has more to do with happiness than most people think.
If you are hurt and angry, it is harder to find the gratitude within. You have to get past what is going on for you in the moment and seek some peace by remembering what you have to be grateful for.
Thanksgiving helps us remember that we need to be grateful, but the word alone does that. The experience really goes much deeper when we allow ourselves to feel thanks. Some people have a ritual where they say what they are grateful for at some point during the holiday meal. But really, giving thanks should be a daily ritual.
A gratitude journal is a tool that I’ve used to help many people heal depression and increase their happiness quotient. All you have to do is get a blank book or pad of paper and, before going to bed, write down several things you are grateful for. This little exercise has the power to change the way you feel. By putting pen to paper and reinforcing your own positive feelings, you confirm your emotions and strengthen yourself.
If you are doing this as a couple, you can try exchanging your lists to learn more about one another. It is a great way to share your deepest feelings for your relationship.
Gratitude will help you see that what you have is better than what it is you may think you want.
Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., is an award-winning psychotherapist and humanitarian. He is also a columnist, the author of eight books and a blogger for PsychologyToday.com with more than 28 million readers. He is available for video consults worldwide. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears Saturdays and Mondays in the News-Press.