The season of Thanksgiving is upon us. Thought of mostly as an American holiday, Canada celebrates Thanksgiving in October and India and other Asian nations have harvest celebrations. While we may be reminded to be more grateful as autumn comes each year, feeling and expressing gratitude year-round is a better way to live. Gratitude is an attribute that can be developed. The following six ideas about gratitude will help you realize what a gift a thankful heart can be.
In a recent address, former university president David A. Bednar remarked, “A grateful person is rich in contentment. An ungrateful person suffers in the poverty of endless discontentment.” Being thankful for what we have, whether it is a roof over our heads or a job that pays the bills, helps keep things in perspective.
My daughter was recently complaining that she has not been to Hawaii on vacation like many of her friends. I reminded her of the many other places she’s been able to visit as we've lived in different places. She immediately realized the opportunities she’s had and felt grateful. Recognizing blessings brings happiness and contentment.
2. The hand of God
When I begin to think about all the things I have been blessed with, I am overwhelmed with a sense of humility and thankfulness for the gifts God has given me and my family. I am aware that God sends me individual blessings tailored to my needs. Taking time to think about the good things and people in our lives helps us realize we are not alone. I know that God cares about me and wants to bless me. I am also certain that he appreciates my feelings of gratitude.
3. Feel love
Every November, I take time with my family to write down things we are thankful for. Inevitably the children choose things like Cheetos and video games, but they also include family, church, music, friends and siblings. When we express gratitude, we feel love. Thanking a friend for a birthday card or well-timed phone call increases feelings of love for that person. Acknowledging the sacrifice of a spouse to provide for family needs helps partners grow closer. I feel my love for my family members increase as I thank them for the ways they help me and show me love daily.
4. See beauty and good
I am so thankful for a beautiful earth. I have lived in several states in the U.S., and each one has remarkable beauty. As we are thankful for nature and the things surrounding us, we see more beauty and good in the world. When someone lets me take a parking spot or go first in line at a store, I am thankful for their kindness and look for ways to return it. Thankfulness breeds kindness and helps us to see the beauty in life all around us.
Recently, a friend pointed out to me a facet of gratitude I hadn’t considered much before. She said her life was enriched as she found things to be thankful for during difficult times in life, and even felt gratitude for her trials. This idea intrigues me. I can see the benefit of looking for the good when things seem bad; pessimism doesn’t bring happiness.
Many people have been inspired by those who endured the horrific conditions of WWII prison camps and kept alive by their own determination to stay positive and not give up. Expressing gratitude when times are difficult will help you endure and overcome.
6. Look outward
Thankful people express gratitude by helping others. An inspiring friend of mine takes in foster children, in emergency situations. She, recently, accepted a newborn whose mother tested positive for drug use at delivery. She also took in his 3-year-old brother. I offered to watch the 3-year-old for a few hours, and I brought her family dinner that evening. I knew she had been caring for the foster children, her own children, her sick husband and herself. This family expressed gratitude to me for the meal, but I was thankful to be able to help. A cycle of thankfulness and service can begin as we look outward to help others as an expression of our gratitude.
Life will never be perfect. We will always have worries and problems. Fortunately, we can be content with our lives and find peace during troubled times if we embrace the gift of gratitude. Don’t wait until Thanksgiving to start living a life full of gratitude. Start today and begin to feel the blessings a thankful heart can bring.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.