This Thursday is a favored holiday for many. Thanksgiving is a joyful time—a time to reflect, and to be grateful for the many blessings in our lives, and those we hold dear.
But when we’re going through difficult times, it can affect our ability to recognize the blessings, and in turn, our ability to express gratitude. This is especially true for those experiencing a recent or prolonged hardship or loss—the loss of a loved one, job, home, relationship, or health.
Gratitude comes naturally when life is going great—and even when things are just pretty good, we can still manage to find something to be grateful for. But when times are tough, it’s hard to see the positives in our lives, and all the “Keep your chin up,” and “It could be worse” clichés in the world don’t help to instill a greater sense of gratitude in us.
But here are a couple of wonderful truths about Thanksgiving we often fail to overlook.
First, gratitude is not something we HAVE, but something we GIVE. The holiday isn’t called ThanksHAVING; it’s called ThanksGIVING. Having something to be grateful for implies that we must first possess something, and that this will create some magical feeling in us that make us gush with gratitude. But thanksgiving is not a “feeling” at all; it is a practice. It’s something we do, and like anything else, the more we do it (practice), the better we become at it. For example, we might start by saying a simple statement like, “I’m thankful for the plants and trees.” But the more we reflect on that, and practice giving thanks, the more our gratitude grows. Before long, “I’m thankful for the plants and trees” becomes “Because they’re pretty and create oxygen.” Which then becomes, “I’m thankful for the plants and trees, because they’re pretty and create oxygen, and that gives me air to breathe. And when I have air to breathe, I have life. And when I have life…” Get the picture? When we practice gratitude, it becomes a habit as second-nature as breathing—even in the tough times.
Second, gratitude is not about focusing exclusively on the good in our lives and denying the bad, as if by pretending problems don’t exist it will somehow make them go away. That’s simply not true. The real key to developing a truly grateful lifestyle is by embracing our setbacks and difficulties, and accepting that they are a part of our life journey. Often, it’s when we work our way through these difficulties that we realize how much we have grown, and how strong we truly are. And that is something we can practice gratitude for.
So, whether you’re experiencing good times or bad times, both are good times to be grateful. Let’s practice giving thanks, not only on Thursday, November 27th (Thanksgiving Day), but every day.