Today all across America, families will gather to celebrate Thanksgiving.
I love this holiday – even more in some ways than Christmas. As much as I love Christmas and what it represents, the holiday itself has become so commercialized and packed with obligations that it has lost something of what it is supposed to stand for.
Not so with Turkey Day. There are no such expectations with Thanksgiving. No wading through crowds looking for that perfect gift and worrying whether someone will be hurt because you didn’t get them what they were expecting. Just bring yourself and a food item to share, and everyone’s happy.
There’s something about this tradition of coming together every November to eat, drink, and watch parades and football that brings warmth and comfort to the soul.
But what if we didn’t just do this once a year? What if we made thanksgiving a daily practice? What if every day, throughout the day, we took notice of the blessings, large and small, that we have in our lives and gave thanks for them?
Imagine how we would feel. We would have that warm-fuzzy Thanksgiving feeling every day of the year.
This daily practice of giving thanks has been one of the keys to my own happiness. My mind was for years like an unruly child. It went wherever it wanted, and much of the time that was to disaster scenarios.
This pessimistic streak led me to some very dark places in my life. To get out of those places, I had to train my mind to see things differently.
My practice is a combination of mindfulness and gratitude. Mindfulness is about bringing myself back into the present moment, from whatever fairy land of concerns and worry my mind has taken me to at that particular moment.
Through mindfulness, I take notice of what I’m doing. Walking. Typing. Talking to someone else. Blowing my nose. Sniffing a flower. Whatever.
But mindfulness, as important as it is, wasn’t enough for me to get me out of those dark places. I had to pair it with gratitude.
Gratitude is about being thankful for the good things that are happening in the present moment. There are many such good things, always, even when we’re dealing with tough circumstances.
It’s all about perspective. We see what we’re looking for. If we’re looking for reasons to be miserable, we’ll find those. If we’re looking for reasons to be thankful and optimistic, on the other hand, we’ll find those too.
So when it’s raining, we can say – oh, just my luck. Another dark, miserable day.
Or we can say – thank you, God, for this life-giving rain that brings water to my spigot, my grass, my flowers.
When the money’s low, we can say – I’m broke, just my luck, these kids drain every penny from me, I’ll never get ahead, yadayadayada.
Or we can say – thank you that my children are healthy, that we have a roof over our head, that I have a job, etc.
We can do this even when we’re in physical or emotional pain. In fact, that’s the most important time for us to find reasons to be thankful, because we affect our inner chemistry with the thoughts we think.
This is how I brought myself out of the depths of depression many years ago. It took me a while, but step by step I changed my inner chemistry, without the help of prescription drugs, by taking notice of the blessings in my life and being thankful for them.
Do I still get down? Of course. But when I do, I take notice of my feelings, take notice of the thoughts I’m thinking, and turn to thoughts of thankfulness.
It works every time.
By noticing the little things in our lives, and giving thanks for them, we change the way we look at things.
The world unfolds. We see a bountiful banquet laid out before us – not just once a year, but every day.
The words “Happy” and “Thanksgiving” go perfectly together. Give thanks and we will be happy.
So let me say to you: Happy Thanksgiving!
May your day be filled with blessings. It will be, if you take notice of them.
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