There are very few things in life that have the power to encourage, inspire, and provide peace of mind and bring happiness all at the same time. Being thankful is one of those things.
This weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving. Being a Canadian who is married to an American, I get the joy of two separate Thanksgiving days! On the surface level this brings us two occasions to feast on Turkey, and two times to gather with friends and family. On a deeper level it provides two distinct times to reflect on everything we have and to be thankful for it.
Of course, no one needs to wait until Thanksgiving Day to be thankful. Instead, we should each develop the habit of thanksgiving so that we are thankful on a daily basis. There are so many benefits to being thankful that we simply can’t wait for special occasions to be thankful. This is true (and perhaps easier) when things are good in life, but it is also true (and perhaps even more important) in tough times. Whatever your situation, there are many befits to cultivating thankfulness in your life.
Benefits of Thankfulness
1. Thankfulness focuses your minds on the good things of life
When you are taking the time to give thanks you are naturally focusing on the good things in life. It is the good things of life that you reflect on with joy as you list or receipt the things in life you are thankful for. The bad things will drift away as you continue to reflect on all that is good in life.
2. Thankfulness helps you think of the big picture
Generally, what you express thanksgiving for are the big things in life. You give thanks for things like your health and your family. You don’t normally give thanks for little things that we fill our lives. Certainly you should be thankful for these things also, but the process of thanksgiving forces you to think about the big picture things. Chances are that you may have many little things in life that are a struggle, and yet the big things in life are likely doing ok.
3. Thankfulness reduces stress
Thinking of the things that you are thankful for takes our minds of the things you are not happy with, thus helping to reduce your stress. The areas of your lives that you are struggling with are the ones that are creating stress. Take your mind of those things and focus on all of the things that are right about your life. These are the things to give thanks for.
4. Thankfulness provides hope for the future
By reflecting on everything you have to be thankful for you are setting up yourselves to have more hope for the future. You are able to think about all of the ways that things have gone right in the past, all of the good things you have been able to achieve or accomplish, and how God has consistently provided for you through good times and bad. This sort of reflection can remind you what it is like to achieve your goals and to feel success in life. Remembering these things tells your mind that you can once again achieve all of these things, and that once again you can reach your goals.
5. Thankfulness reminds you to be happy now
All too often people today are so caught up in work and in trying to achieve some goal, that they start thinking that we need to complete that goal in order to be happy. The tendency is to view happiness as a step away, something you are working for. In reality you have lots to be happy for right now. Reflecting with thanksgiving on those things helps you to recognize that you have every reason to be happy right now. Happiness isn’t something you need to pursue endlessly to achieve instead it is something you can have right now.
6. Thankfulness puts you in our proper place
Being thankful reminds us about how good we really have things, and how we really have more than we deserve. By being thankful, we are recognizing there is someone to be thankful to. Whether you want to consider this as Mother Nature or God, or whomever, you are being thankful to someone outside of yourself for the good things in life. For me, thankfulness points me to God as my provider for all things.
Tips to Developing the Habit of Thankfulness
There are many things you can do to express your thankfulness. Taking the time to do these can help you make thankfulness a habit and bring you all the benefits I shared above.
* Write down what you are thankful for. – This can be a simple process, of taking some time to make a list of things that you are thankful for. The list can either be in point form, or in more of a full-on journal entry.
* Tell others about the things you are thankful for. – On tradition common on Thanksgiving Day is for a family to go around the table and have each member share something they are thankful for. Verbal testimony about things you are thankful for are powerful, because not only does it solidify the fact that you are thankful, but it serves as a reminder and encouragement to everyone who hears you.
* Meditate on the subject of thankfulness. – This involves quieting your mind and focusing on thoughts of thanksgiving. Think about all of the different things in life that are good and that you are thankful for. Allow your mind to wander from the very mundane things that you have to be thankful for, all the way to the extraordinary.
* Do something in recognition of what you have to be thankful for. - Athletes and musicians do this all the time when they dedicate a performance to someone. Authors do it when they dedicate their book to a loved one. You can choose something you are thankful for and respond by doing something in honor or in dedication to that thing or person. You don’t have to write a book, or sing a song. You can do very basic, even mundane activities, as acts of thankfulness. You can cut your lawn as an act of thankfulness to the fact that you own a home and have the money to pay your mortgage. You can do your laundry in thankfulness for the fact that you have plenty clothes to wear. And like the athlete, the artist, or the author, you can also dedicate big projects to others as a work of thankfulness.
Clearly we all have many things to be thankful for. What about you? What are you thankful for today? Use the comments on this blog as an opportunity for you to express your thankfulness in front of others.