Never underestimate the power of gratitude. Not only does expressing appreciation strengthen our relationships with others, but it also elevates our own mood. While Thanksgiving has long been one of my favorite holidays, I have gained an even deeper appreciation for this celebration over the past five years, as I have come to understand just how valuable gratefulness truly is.
During this time, I’ve had the privilege of supporting children, teens, and families who are frustrated and discouraged. One of my favorite questions to ask is, “What’s going well?”. Often this inquiry results in confusion, because most people expect to discuss problems with a therapist and are caught off guard when I direct the conversation to life’s positives.
Yet, focusing on the bright side of life is imperative because it is the first step to building momentum. Time and time again I have watched people feeling down and out, practice gratitude and as a result, have their entire outlook on life improve. When difficulties arise, it’s easy to hone in on the negative circumstances surrounding us and to forget about the abundance of good things that continue to be present. Gratitude is by far, the best prescription for breaking through negativistic tunnel vision.
If you have found yourself feeling overwhelmed or discouraged lately, there is no better day for getting back on track than Thanksgiving. If things are already going well, then Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to build on your current momentum through increased acts of gratitude. One thing that I’ve discovered is that the more thankful one is, the easier gratitude becomes.
Here are three simple strategies for finding the good, building momentum, and refining the art of gratitude this holiday season.
1. Build gratitude momentum by starting small. It’s far too easy to take for granted the abundance of blessings in our life. I’ve learned that everyone ─ yes, everyone ─ has at least a few things going well, and the trick is to find them. Here is a list of some small positives to help you build your gratitude momentum. See how many of them are true for you?
- It’s a beautiful day outside.
- Yesterday’s problems are now in the past.
- You have a home to live in.
- You have friends and family who love you.
- There is a family pet that can’t wait to see you.
- You have food to eat and a bed to sleep in.
- You smiled today.
- You have time to sit back, relax, and read this blog.
- You had a good cup of coffee today.
- You are celebrating Thanksgiving.
- Someone was kind to you this week.
- This week you found something to laugh about.
- Your children think you’re the best mom or dad in the world.
- You’re physically healthy and strong.
- You have learned, grown, and matured over the past year.
Every item you were able to check off on this list is a reason to be thankful, and while all of these things may not be true for you, my guess is that overall, there is a lot to be grateful for.
2. Look for small ways to pass on appreciation to others. Gratitude is the most unselfish, selfish thing we can do. It’s nearly impossible to encourage others without being refreshed ourselves. In addition, small acts of appreciation make a huge difference to those around us. Last week, my wife and I spent some time de-cluttering our apartment before our big move and I came across an old file filled with cards and thank you notes that had been given to me over the years. Those cards, notes of appreciation, and simple acts of kindness continue to mean a lot to me. Simple acts of kindness often matter more to others than we realize. A few weeks ago I brainstormed with friends and family about our top strategies for expressing gratitude and support for the important people and causes in our lives. Here is what we came up with:
- Pray for them.
- Actively listen to what they have to say.
- Provide empathy and understanding.
- Freely give your time & energy to help.
- Make a financial contribution.
- Send encouraging notes.
- Laugh with them.
- Love them no matter what.
3. Make gratitude a way of life. I can’t think of a better day to begin intentionally practicing the discipline of gratitude than Thanksgiving. But, gratitude is much too meaningful to be reserved for this day alone. Like any other skill, our ability to be grateful grows as we practice it consistently over time. Here is what others have had to say about the power of gratitude:
“It is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness — just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.” ― Laura Ingalls Wilder
“It makes no difference where you go, there you are. And it makes no difference what you have, there’s always more to want. Until you are happy with who you are, you will never be happy because of what you have.” ― Zig Ziglar
“A grateful heart is a medicine to the soul.” ― Lailah Gifty Akita
This year I’m especially thankful for my wife and three daughters. I’m grateful that we were recently able to move into a house. I’m thankful for my career and the privilege of being able to serve as a support system to others. I’m also extremely grateful for you. It’s an honor to be able to share my ideas with you each week.
If you are like me, and have much to be thankful for, it’s important to know that the best time to practice an attitude of gratitude is right now. One way to do this is by sharing what you’re grateful for in the comments below. I can’t wait to hear from you, and wish you an incredibly blessed and grateful Thanksgiving!