This time of year, the topic of thankfulness is front and center—and not just for those of us who celebrate Thanksgiving. The end of the year brings cooler weather, holidays, time with friends and family, and reflection. This year was a difficult one, and I know I turned to appreciation to get me through the tougher moments.
This sense of gratitude is more powerful than many of us realize. In fact, social scientists report that people who make it a practice to write down even one thing a day that they are grateful for experience a marked rise in happiness in less than a month. That’s a pretty small practice with a big payoff…
I can report from my own experience that it is true. My gratitude practice has taken many forms over the years but has always included beginning each day with prayer. Kabbalists have a set of prayers that they say every morning, one of which is the 18 blessings—a tool for connecting to appreciation for all the goodness in our lives, from the sun rising to the ground under our feet. There is even a prayer that reminds us to be thankful for waking up. It’s a reminder to not take anything for granted, and this year especially, I believe that all of us are experiencing a more profound sense of being grateful for what we have.
Whatever your practice may be, giving your attention to the things you’re grateful for sets you up to notice more and more good things throughout the day. Gratitude is a circuitous energy. The more time we spend feeling grateful, the more reasons we find to be grateful.
And this is always easier to do when things are going well, right? But what about when things aren’t going so great? What about when we don’t feel like “looking” for the good? You probably already know what I’m going to say… the times we don’t want to do it are the BEST times to do it. Whether you are experiencing difficult times in your own life or you have become disillusioned with the state of the world after reading one too many tragic headlines, good things exist, and you actually don’t have to look too hard to find them, but you do have to have a desire to.
For this reason, I believe the Today Show has an entire section of their website dedicated to Good News. After reading a few of their recent headlines, it was tough not to smile and feel the bloom of appreciation begin to rise. Here are a few:
“Chicago woman, 104, skydives from the plane, aiming to break the record for world’s oldest skydiver.”
“Sam Kaplan, 72, graduates from a Georgia college with his 99-year-old mom cheering him on”
“Starbucks workers raise over $40K for beloved barista after her car was burglarized.”
How do you feel after reading those? I bet you’re smiling, too!
Now try to make your own. What are your gratitude headlines? When you take a moment to focus on the good around you, no matter how you might be feeling, you are bound to find a few—and fast. It doesn’t need to be grand or even big.
It can be the tea that you’re drinking as you read this. It can be the health of your family and friends. If you’re experiencing something wonderful, it can be every tiny detail about that moment, right down to the smile it brings to your face. If you are in a challenging time, it can be the support you feel from those around you, maybe it’s the first laugh of the day, or—if you want to be a real gratitude ninja—it can be an appreciation that you feel for the opportunity that the challenge brings you to grow.
No matter what life looks like, there is always something to be grateful for and always a blessing to notice.
Appreciation is the birthplace of love, generosity, and joy. When practiced, even for a moment, our gratitude begins to transcend the physical world, and we open ourselves up to deeper perspectives and experiences of connection. Our gratitude ascends beyond just what we see or what we have. It becomes an overwhelming sense of awe at simply being alive, being granted another day on this earth, another opportunity to experience this planet in every possible way, and to share ourselves in ways that bring Light to the world.
Happy Thanksgiving to those in the US, and happy wishes to all of those who give thanks today.
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