He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. – Epictetus
What if Thanksgiving Day Was Every Day?
Every November about a month out before Christmas many people in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving Day. This is a special day that reminds us of the value of gratitude for all that we have been given over the past 12 months.
Now, of course, if you live anywhere outside of the United States or Canada then Thanksgiving Day probably isn’t something that you would typically celebrate, however, you are probably more than familiar with this tradition.
Thanksgiving Day is possibly one of the most remarkable days of the year. It’s remarkable because for one day of the year we decide that it’s okay to be happy. And that happiness, of course, comes through the appreciation we give to others, to life, and to living.
For one day over the course of an entire year, we live with gratitude. We live with a deep sense of appreciation for the people who have supported us; we live with a deep appreciation for our health, energy, and wellbeing; we live with a deep appreciation for everything that we have, and maybe even for the hardships that have strengthened us mentally, emotionally and physically. Yes, we take the time to appreciate all these things for one single day of the year. Just one single day where happiness takes priority over everything else.
Thanksgiving Day is certainly a great reminder of the value of gratitude and the incredible happiness that it can bring to our lives. However, it’s just one day… just one single day. What happens the next day, the next week and the next month? Do we just forget about all these things? Do we typically just start taking them for granted? For most people, the answer is probably YES!
For one day of the year we take the time to feel truly alive and happy, but then the very next day life takes over and we no longer feel the same way. Our problems no longer seem like blessings but rather burdens; those who have hurt us are no longer forgiven; and the things that we lack significantly overshadow the things that we were grateful for just one single day ago. As a result we no longer feel happy, instead, we feel stressed, irritated, and frustrated that life isn’t any different. We no longer appreciate what we have but instead, focus our attention on what is missing.
But what if things weren’t this way? What if Thanksgiving Day was every day? What if today, tomorrow, next week, and next month you chose to live with more gratitude and appreciation? What then?
What it Means to Live with Gratitude
What would it actually mean to live every single day with gratitude and appreciation in your heart?
In order to live, each and every day with gratitude and appreciation means being thankful for everything that life brings your way. This, of course, means being thankful and appreciative for the good as well as the bad. It means being grateful for all the disappointments, setbacks and obstacles you suffer in exactly the same way you show appreciation for your victories and accomplishments.
To live with gratitude means continuously counting your blessings. Yes, things might not have turned out as you had expected, but there is just so much else you have going for you. As such, to live with gratitude means recognizing everything you have that is good. All these things are blessings that bring incredible joy and happiness to your life.
Speaking of joy, to live with gratitude means to find joy in the smallest of things. Finding joy in the food you eat, finding joy in the company you keep, finding joy in a nature walk, finding joy in the music you listen to, etc. These are small and relatively insignificant things that we typically take for granted, and yet they are the things that truly make life worth living.
All this, of course, comes down to paying attention and noticing the impact that simple pleasures have on your experience of life. The air you breathe, the things you touch, the aroma that passes through your nostrils, the tastes that roll over your tongue, the words you hear other people speak, these are all simple things that we take for granted. In fact, in some ways, they are all miracles of life, of living.
Given this, one thing is very clear: To live with gratitude means to live life as though everything is a miracle. That is essentially what true gratitude is all about. It’s about treating everything — whether you initially perceive it as being good or bad — as a miracle.
When you spend your days seeing miracles manifesting all around you, you naturally start feeling grateful and appreciative of everything that life brings your way. However, even though this sounds quite straightforward, this is certainly not a lens you can just suddenly switch on and start using at a moment’s notice. In order to begin seeing the world in this way, you will essentially need to make a shift in how you interpret your life, events, and circumstances. And this, of course, will take time and effort on your part. It won’t be easy, however, it is bound to be of incredible value.
The True Value of Living with Gratitude
So what are the true benefits of choosing to live with gratitude? For starters living with gratitude refocuses your mind. It refocuses it away from things that are lacking and not working; away from things that cause emotional turmoil, and instead onto what’s most important, onto what’s working, and onto the things that bring you most joy and happiness.
This mindset is known as an Abundance Mindset. You are no longer focused on things that are missing in your life, but instead, divert your attention onto things that you already have in abundance. And as a result, you no longer feel stressed, anxious, depressed or fearful. These emotions only come to the surface when we focus on what we don’t have; on what is missing, and on not having enough compared to others.
As a result of no longer indulging in these negative emotional experiences you naturally start feeling more energetic, your immune system strengthens and your health improves. The negative emotions we experience are after all often a cause of the deterioration of the physical body. As such, removing these emotions from your experience immediately strengthens your body, boosts your immunity and improves your health. However, the benefits of living with gratitude don’t stop there.
When you start living with gratitude you naturally begin feeling more optimistic. As a result, you start feeling happier and more enthusiastic about life. And with this enthusiasm, you have more willpower and therefore display more determination and resilience in the face of adversity.
Living with gratitude also tends to improve our level of alertness. This typically occurs because we are no longer caught up indulging in negative emotions that often cloud our judgment. Instead we naturally feel more fulfilled, confident and capable, and as a result, we become more alert to our own behavior, of other people and of our surroundings. This alertness then helps us think more clearly about our life and circumstances, and as a result, living with gratitude allows us to express our creativity more readily.
These are of course just some of the benefits derived from living with gratitude. But what does it actually look like to live with gratitude each and every day? What’s involved and how exactly do we need to think about our lives and circumstances in order to live this way each and every day?
To Live with Gratitude or Not to Live with Gratitude?
That is of course a good question. Shakespeare put it another way when he asked the question: To be or not to be?
Let’s explore here what it truly means to live with gratitude every single day. Let’s specifically take a look at two people who live life in two very distinct ways.
Person A we’ll call the Ungrateful Thinker. This is probably the typical person you will pass by while walking along the street who is just completely engrossed in themselves and in their own emotional needs and experiences. Then there is Person B whom we’ll call the Grateful Thinker. This is a person you will bump into once in a blue moon who lives life as though everything is a miracle.
Let’s take a look at the differences in the thoughts, habits, attitude and behavior patterns of these two individuals in order to get some insight into how they live their life.
Person A: The Ungrateful Thinker
This person is typically focused on what is lacking in their life. They will often blame, complain and make excuses when things don’t go their way. They do this because they only see the negatives of a situation. As a result they kind of feel like a victim of circumstance. In fact, they regularly play the victim card and very quickly absolve themselves of all responsibility.
When this person isn’t complaining about what is lacking, they spend their time gossiping about others. They do this for one purpose and one reason only: To make themselves feel better about their own life and circumstances. They spot faults in other people and criticize them behind their backs because they simply can’t accept their own faults and problems. Focusing on others in this way makes them feel a little better about their own lives.
Given this, it’s quite clear to see how these people are easily aroused to envy. They are always comparing themselves to others. If other people have more than they do, then they focus on what’s lacking in their own lives. However, instead of doing something about it, they choose to accredit other people’s successes to pure dumb luck: Other people have everything because they are lucky, and they are certainly not deserving.
You can however never convince these people to think otherwise because they are always right and everyone else is simply wrong.
Person B: The Grateful Thinker
This person lives a life of gratitude. Every single day they take the time to show appreciation for the life they live. They are thankful, humble and optimistic. Yes, they too experience problems and setbacks, however, they always look for the good without complaining, blaming or making excuses.
No matter what happens they try their best to focus on the good in people as well. As such, you will never hear them gossiping or speaking badly of others. In fact, they are always genuinely happy for other people’s successes and very compassionate and encouraging when it comes to listening to people’s problems and hardships. As a result, they don’t indulge in comparing themselves to others. There are no comparisons to be made when everything in your life is seen as a miracle.
These people are certainly not perfect. In fact, they see their imperfections just like everybody else, however, they accept these imperfections for what they are and appreciate them with an open heart and mind. Imperfections are after all simply blessings that haven’t as yet been fully realized. And of course, they can never be fully realized unless we view them in a positive light.
These people are incredibly grateful for what they have and especially appreciative of all the things that money just can’t buy, i.e. friendships, family, love, companionship, etc. Yes, of course, there are things missing that they would like to have, however, they don’t obsess over these things. They instead focus on what they have (abundance mentality) while working on the things that they want to bring more of into their life.
And of course, when they don’t get what they want, they look for the blessings and lessons that they can draw from their experience. Therefore there is always something for them to gain and learn about no matter what the outcome. As such, they continue to live with gratitude day-in and day-out because they understand that to live with gratitude is the only way to get the most fulfillment out of life.
How to Start Living with More Gratitude
Let’s now take a look at how to develop the habit of gratitude. And that’s essentially what gratitude is. It’s simply a habit that you can learn to develop and grow over time. And of course, like with any habit, it takes repeated consistent action over at least 30 days to install into your psyche.
We won’t discuss here the specifics of what’s required to develop a new habit, instead, let’s take a look at the simple daily actions you can start taking today that will help you to begin living with more gratitude.
Express Your Gratitude at Every Opportunity
This first step requires a slight mindset shift. Instead of complaining, blaming or making excuses about your life or predicament, focus on taking full responsibility. When you fully accept how things are without resistance you won’t have a need to blame, complain or make excuses.
Without these things on your mind, you naturally open yourself up to more gratitude and appreciation for what you currently have that is good in your life.
With this in mind, take a timeout at regular intervals throughout the day to ask yourself:
What am I grateful for at this moment?
Right now I am grateful for…
Once you are clear about what it is you are grateful for, it’s now time to express this gratitude by treating yourself in some way, by thanking someone with a hug, gift or letter, or simply through performing some kind of random act of kindness.
Expressing your gratitude through words is a great start, however, it’s really only when you start expressing your gratitude through “actions” do you begin to feel true humbled gratitude and appreciation. As such, don’t hold yourself back. Go out into the world and express true authentic gratitude (through words and actions) for the good things you have going for you. Moreover, express your gratitude to people who have helped you, and express your gratitude even for all those unwelcomed problems that surprise you. 🙂
Find Gratitude Within Every Problem
Speaking of problems… well, we all have them, and in many ways, they are kind of inevitable and at times unavoidable. Life is simply full of problems, in fact, life is an endless cycle of problems that continuously test our resolve and patience. But no matter how bad things might seem, your problems are not your enemy.
Problems are nothing more than steps in our evolution as a person experiencing life. Every problem can help you grow and develop yourself in some way. However, you must first see the problem as advantageous before you can derive value from it.
Have a think for a moment about the evolution of humankind over the course of tens of thousands of years. Over this period of time as a human species, we faced a great many problems that tested us to our limits. However, every problem conquered has led to some kind of awakening; to some kind of perspective shift; or to some kind of progress in the way we do, create or think about things. Therefore your problems are not an incarnation of the devil. They are instead designed to help you make progress in life.
Now, of course, you might not necessarily know what “form” that progress is going to take until much later down the track. As such, you must have faith that you will learn the lessons that must be learned; you will grow from the experience, and that progress will eventually be made.
With that in mind, it’s quite clear that the problems we face can be of tremendous value. However, if we resist these problems by blaming, complaining, making excuses or simply sulking away by playing the victim card, then we are doing ourselves no favors.
You must embrace all the problems you face, and the easiest way to do this is through gratitude. Yes, I do actually mean to express gratitude for your problems and all the setbacks and adversity that life throws your way. Appreciate these problems because they are there to help you take the next step along your journey. To do this, ask yourself:
What are the true benefits of this problem?
What can this problem help me learn?
How will it allow me to grow as a person?
What insights can I gather from this problem that can help me?
How could it change me as a person?
What value is there in all this?
Why am I grateful for all these benefits?
How will these benefits help me right here, right now?
How could I benefit from working through this problem in the future?
How does all this make me feel?
Your problems are only what you make them out to be. And it is only through an attitude of gratitude that you will successfully unmask the true value of what they have to offer.
A Simple Exercise to Help You Live with Gratitude
Just imagine for a moment losing absolutely everything you currently value in life. Of course, we are not wishing for this to happen, but there is a point to this exercise, so please do follow along.
First, imagine losing your job and your means of earning a living. Next imagine losing all your physical possessions including your car, house, clothing, and every other item you have collected over the years. Now imagine losing your reputation and the respect you have built up over the years. Imagine also now losing your closest friends, and then your family. And next of course goes your health and mobility. And finally, imagine losing all your happiest memories. How would it feel to know that you once had a beautiful life but can no longer remember it?
This is, of course, the worst of the worst-case scenarios that we could ever imagine. In fact, this scenario is so dire that it’s very hard to imagine, but there is a point to this madness.
Imagine now progressively gaining back all that you have lost. First, imagine gaining back your happy memories, then your health, then your family and friends, then your reputation, then your possessions, and finally your job and security. Just imagine how gaining back all these things progressively over time would make you feel. In fact, how would it make you feel? Would you feel grateful? Would you feel blessed? Would you actually come to appreciate what you have more than you ever did before? Of course, you would. You would because most people only truly appreciate what they had while taking for granted what they have.
Going through this exercise once per day in the morning for about 5 minutes will help you to truly come to appreciate the value of what you have in your life right now. Never will you again take things for granted, and that’s essentially what it takes to start living with gratitude.
Maintaining a Gratitude Journal
In order to truly live with gratitude, we must constantly remind ourselves of the things we are most grateful for. Remember, that actions are more powerful than words alone, and writing things down on paper is a form of action that helps express your gratitude in a physical way.
One of the best ways to do this is to keep a gratitude journal. This is a journal or notebook you write or doodle in every single day as a reminder of all the things that you are grateful for.
All that’s required is a few minutes at the end of each day where you will sit down and ask yourself the following set of questions:
What good things happened today?
What am I grateful for?
Why am I grateful for this?
Why is that important to me?
How does that make me feel?
Whether you write down your answers to these questions, doodle them or make cutouts from magazines and photos makes no difference. The key is to get into the habit of reminding yourself what was good about today so to help you create a better tomorrow.
This is of course where you can overview all the problems you faced and how you dealt with them. Finding things to appreciate about these problems will provide you with a greater level of self-confidence and self-assurance that you can handle absolutely anything that life throws your way.
Yes, it’s a simple task and something that will take you probably up to 20 minutes per day, however, the value of this task will surely surpass the time you spend on it by gifting you with a renewed attitude that helps you tackle the world tomorrow with even more vigor, enthusiasm, and energy.
Reasons Why You Should be Grateful
In order to truly live with gratitude, it’s important to constantly remind ourselves of all the things that we should be grateful for. For instance, how about your health? How about your family? How about your friends? How about all the knowledge you have gathered over the years? How about the beauty of nature? How about cars, planes, boats, bikes, television, the internet, phones, and all the latest technology you enjoy today? How about being grateful for the roof over your head? For your comfy couch? For a warm bed? Or maybe for a warm cuddle in bed? 🙂
Today you are living a life of luxuries and choices that Kings and Queens of days gone by never even fathomed. Just imagine living as a King or Queen during the middle ages and not having access to technology, or for that matter the choices and convenience in the food you have today. And what about that hot shower or that sewage system? Well, they didn’t have them during the middle ages.
Just think for a second about the knowledge and information you have at the touch of your fingertips over the internet or through reading books. The greatest scholars of days gone by would be envious that they were not born during the 21st Century.
Consider also the access you have to modern medicine and healthcare. Even a measly 50 years ago people could only have dreamed of having medications and the facilities we have today. However, you don’t need to dream, you are here living in this day and age and can enjoy all these incredible modern miracles.
I guess in a ways everything is kind of a miracle, isn’t it? We don’t see these things as miracles today, but for people that lived hundreds of years ago, life today would seem very much like a miracle. And in reality, it still is. It just depends on how you see things — on how you perceive all the wonders that the modern world has to offer.
There Are Even More Reasons to be Grateful
But let’s also take a look at other reasons to be grateful. How about being grateful for the people who hurt you…
How has this experience made me stronger?
What valuable lessons has this person taught me about myself?
Or how about showing gratitude for the people who criticize you…
What can I learn from this criticism?
How can I use this criticism in a constructive way to help me improve what I do and how I do things?
Or how about showing gratitude for all your “so-called” enemies you have…
What positive things have these people taught me about myself?
How have I positively changed as a result of them being in my life?
Or how about showing a little gratitude for your weaknesses and the struggles you have subsequently faced…
How have my weaknesses humbled me?
What have my weaknesses revealed about where my strengths lie?
Or how about all those difficulties and problems you have faced. Yes, we’ve already discussed them before, but let’s take another look…
What is good about these difficulties I am working through?
What have they taught me about myself, about others, or about how to effectively deal with the situation I find myself in?
How have my difficulties helped me grow as a person?
What am I now able to do, be and have as a result of successfully working through past difficulties and problems?
And then there are all those mistakes that we always tend to make when learning something new…
How have my mistakes positively shaped me?
By learning from them, what have they allowed me to do?
How have they helped me improve my ability to make more effective decisions?
And finally, there is that inevitable pain we all go through at certain points in our lives. How could experiencing this pain be of value?
How has this painful event changed me for the better?
How has this painful experience strengthened me emotionally?
As you can see, expressing your gratitude doesn’t need to start with “what am I grateful for…?” It can rather come in the form of the numerous questions you ask yourself throughout the day that help you see your situation in a more optimal light.
Now, of course, getting into the habit of asking these questions helps you come to appreciate the true value of every experience. And that’s essentially what gratitude is all about: It’s about accepting the bad for what it is and then appreciating the good that can come from each experience.
With that in mind, every moment can be miraculous in its own way if you simply choose to live your life with gratitude and make every day Thanksgiving day.
Time to Assimilate these Concepts
Did you gain value from this article? Is it important that you know and understand this topic? Would you like to optimize how you think about this topic? Would you like a method for applying these ideas to your life?
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Gain More Knowledge…
Here are some additional links and resources that will help you learn more about this topic:
- 5 Choices for a Life of Gratitude @ The Huffington Post
- 7 Habits of Grateful People @ The Huffington Post
- 10 Gratitude Principles to Live By @ Mind Body Green
- 11 Tips for a Powerful Gratitude Journal @ Tiny Buddha
- 40 Inspiring Quotes About Gratitude @ Inc.
- Cultivating the Healing Power of Gratitude @ Chopra
- How Gratitude Can Change Your Life @ The Change Blog
- How to Start a Gratitude Practice to Change Your Life @ Tiny Buddha
- The Power of Gratitude @ CNN
- The Power of Gratitude and Why Thanksgiving Truly Matters @ Mindvalley
- Why Living a Life of Gratitude Can Make You Happy @ Zen Habits
- Why Thanksgiving Should be a Daily Event @ Forbes