Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday as it brings us back to the important things in life… and we’re not talking about cyberweek or Black Friday specials! This is a time to take in the moment, slow down and connect in ways that linger long after the table is cleared.
Here are five reminders that help me see give thanks at a whole new level:
1. Be grateful for the small stuff: The small stuff is actually the most important, like sharing a smile, savoring a good meal, having the grace to wake up another day, or simply saying I love you. The beauty of everyday life is present all the time if we just notice. Take regular gratitude breaks – it’s worth it.
2. Live as if this year was your last: Often we only appreciate something when it is threatened. We value our health when we get sick, we appreciate the charm of a house just before we sell it, and we remember meaningful conversations when the other person is no longer around. What if we could reverse that and feel gratitude right here and now? What if we could be thankful for what is present in front of us, even if it is not exactly what we had in mind?
3. Lessons all around: In Man’s Search for Meaning, author Victor Frankl explored how we cannot change what life presents; we can however choose our attitude in any given set of circumstances. When challenges shock the day-to-day as we know it, two questions are helpful. 1) What did I learn from this situation?How has it made me stronger?It can take some time, acceptance and inner stillness to even ask these questions. When we’re caught in the escalating tornado of emotions, it’s hard to have perspective. But by looking back, everything becomes clearer. Clarity gives birth to peace. Another aspect is self-compassion. Consider replacing “If I had only…” with “I did my best under the circumstances.” That’s part of the lesson, too.
4. The human condition: One of the things that blasts open our humanity is that we all have to deal with the hard stuff at one point or another. It doesn’t matter what country you live in, how much money is in the bank or what job you have — life happens. Some people get their lessons earlier, some experience suffering later on. In all cases, it cracks open our hearts to know a new level of compassion for others (as opposed to being pre-occupied with thoughts like “Why me?”). If we remember that it is not personal — dealing with challenges is just a part of life — then compassion, even for ourselves, will grow.
5. There is a bigger picture: We are all connected to something greater, however that is defined. We all have a purpose/assignment in life. Often, that is fulfilling on a deep level and can help others, too. Trust that there is a bigger plan at work, even if it may not be visible yet. Try tuning in. Carve out some quiet time. Listen for the clues and connect. Expressing your authentic self, kindness, love, understanding and forgiveness all open the gates of gratitude.
This Thanksgiving, I am viewing things in a new way. I have a renewed appreciation for the little everyday moments that remind me of all the good in my life. When I make time to notice, there are a lot! I hope it is the same for you.