Relevant and wonderful quote illustrated by the super talented Lisa Congdon
With Thanksgiving now upon us, there will be plenty of discussion today about what people are thankful for. There are plenty of reasons for me to be thankful - my health, my happiness, my friends and family, my job, my education - the list goes on. But, whilst I do not technically celebrate Thanksgiving, not being American and all that (as well as having reservations about the historical origins of the holiday) I do want to take a little moment to reflect on the process of being thankful. Because whilst Thanksgiving is a great reminder to be thankful, like all good things, it should not be restricted to just the one day.
This isn't a religious thing; I am not thankful to some higher being for the excellent things in my life. I know that they are down to more than some hypothetical God bestowing me with fortune - I have things to be thankful for partly through luck, partly through privilege and partly through hard work.
There are plenty of ways to be thankful, and I do think that it's an important process. In a world of social media and the Internet, and of capitalist consumerism, there are plenty of reminders that we do not have enough, that we are not enough, that we should always be desiring and striving for more, never happy with our lot. And whilst some motivation to try new things and to push yourself a little harder doesn't go amiss, the overall feeling you're left with isn't a very positive one. Practising gratitude and thankfulness, whilst it sounds a bit airy fairy, is a great way to combat this. Reminding yourself of the good presences in your life distracts you from those perceived lacks, but can also help you identify the areas that you truly want to improve because they will enrich your life, rather than because Facebook is making you feel bad about them.
Everyone has their own way of being grateful and thankful. Whether that's just thinking it every now and again, writing a list or a journal, or saying it out loud, there are plenty of ways to practise being thankful. I personally have started to be pretty vocal about my thankfulness; it can be easy when you see people every day to forget to be thankful for them. Whether it is a heartfelt statement of love, or just a simple 'thank you for doing the washing up', actively thanking people out loud creates lots of warm fuzzies, perfect for putting you in a good mood and stopping negative thoughts from creeping in.
I appreciate that it sounds a bit facetious; I do have a lot to be thankful for and I know that not everyone is so lucky. But the process of being thankful, of taking time to appreciate things, is a great way to raise self-esteem, to focus your goals and just make you smile. It is not something that just happens, but something that needs to be actively worked on - it is easy to forget to be thankful but you will feel so much better if you do. So when Thanksgiving is over and long forgotten, keep up some of the (good parts of) the tradition and don't forget to say please and thank you!
What are you thankful for? Do you actively practise being thankful?