It’s that time of year again – the time when we begin to look back at all the things for which we should give thanks. We’ll go down that mental checklist and tick off all the obvious things – good health, a roof over our heads, food on our tables, and having people in our lives who we care about. Those are the big things. What about the little things?
Practicing gratitude is something that we really should be doing every day. Being grateful has real benefits, both physically and mentally, that we don’t even think about. It makes us feel good. It puts us in a better state of mind. And that’s just the beginning.An article in Harvard Health Publishing states that, “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
I’ve been trying to make a practice of practicing gratitude each day (yes, I said that) – even for the small, seemingly unimportant things that we all take for granted, such as enjoying a few quiet moments with a good cup of coffee, or finding a $10 bill crumpled up in my purse when I thought I had no cash on hand, or realizing that the person driving slowly in front of me actually prevented me from getting in an accident at an intersection, had they (and I) been going any faster.
In a world in which bad news sells and we are constantly bombarded by it every single day, making an effort to be grateful for something – even a small something – IS SOMETHING! But, like anything else in life that’s worthwhile, you have to work at it. You have to practice.
When I visit my 86-year-old father, he often talks about the news or politics and I can hear the change in his voice as he begins to sound bitter and disgusted by all of the negative things happening in the world. This train of thought, if you swim in it for too long, can lead to anxiety and depression. Therefore, when I see this happening, I make an effort to flip the script.
“But, Dad,” I say, “look at all the GOOD things happening. You’re so lucky to have thoughtful neighbors who check on you. You have three adult children who (let’s face it) turned out pretty good. You have five beautiful granddaughters. You have a home that’s paid off. You can still drive a car and you still have all (or at least most) of your mental faculties.” (I do try to make him laugh as much as possible.)
Often, it just takes this little reminder to change his thinking and, before you know it, he’s feeling more positive and he agrees that, yes, there really is a lot of good in the world – good people, good news, good experiences – plenty for which to be thankful.
You just have to look for it.