Gratitude is the basis for much of our personal happiness. At this time of thanksgiving, we have a wonderful opportunity to reflect on all of those people, events, and experiences, past and present, for which we would like to give thanks. Whether we give thanks in the quiet space within our hearts to those who have passed on or express gratitude in more tangible ways to those who are still with us, we benefit from entering the state of heart and the state of mind that is thankfulness.
Being thankful doesn’t negate the fact that there is a lot not to be thankful for. There are events and people in our lives about whom we feel pain, losses we continue to grieve, and unfortunate or traumatic events that still impact our lives today. However, looking back, at least some of the things we grieve or are sad or angry about now look like blessings in disguise. Losing a job but perhaps ending up with a better job or getting a divorce but finding a rich, new love are just two examples of this. Even the losses that never feel like blessings in retrospect do not have to completely eclipse our capacity for joy and gratitude. In fact, the more we are able to feel gratitude and joy, the happier we will be in spite of these disappointments and losses.
It may not occur to us that not only can we give thanks to the people who have given to us, we can actually also be thankful for those people to whom we have given. Why would we thank our children, our students or the organizations to which we volunteer? Aren’t they supposed to thank us? Perhaps, but consider the gifts you receive when you give to others. All of us long to feel worthwhile, to have a sense of purpose; giving to others fulfills this need to a great degree.
Perhaps above all else, giving to others allows us to experience the joy of feeling useful and helping others who may not have the blessings we enjoy or people who may be shouldering burdens heavier than ours. And then there are the smiles, the looks of relief or gratitude we receive from many of those we have helped and the simple knowledge that we have made a difference, even if a small one, in the life of another. Let’s discuss thankfulness in our lives.
- What are you feeling most thankful for at this time in your life?
- Where did you learn the attitude and skill of gratitude? Did you learn this as a child or sometime in your adult life?
- Thanksgiving can be expressed with a word, a phrase, a touch, with a smile or with an action. How often do you openly express gratitude and thankfulness toward others?
- What have you found to be the benefits of thankfulness and gratitude in your life, your sense of self or your relationships?
- What would you wish to teach others you love—children, grandchildren, parents, friends—about gratitude and ways to increase this in your life?