Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday (as long as you ignore its homicidal historical roots) and a great reminder for us to be thankful for everything we have. It’s been nice seeing people share things they are grateful for online rather than complaints, but unfortunately it’s often the only time many people even think to count their blessings or focus on what they’re grateful for. The fact that it’s followed immediately by “Black Friday” which has become an increasingly dangerous and disgusting display of rampant consumerism gone wrong makes it seem all the more trivial – how ironic is it that people are trampling each other to get into mega-stores to buy more useless crap the day after giving thanks for everything they already have?
So keep counting your blessings at Thanksgiving, but having and expressing gratitude is most beneficial when it’s done every day and is part of your lifestyle. In fact, having what I like to call an “attitude of gratitude” and expressing gratitude regularly has been proven to increase happiness. Sweet!
A few years ago, I was going through a rough breakup and a lot of life changes, in debt and broke, and felt truly alone for the first time in my life. Luckily I have always been an optimist, and I have a wonderful support network of family and friends, but it was a pretty dark time in my life when I wasn’t making great decisions or feeling good about much at all. One thing I did to help bring myself out of this slump, which I first heard about from a good friend who worked at Cafe Gratitude for a summer in Berkeley, was to start asking myself regularly, “What are you grateful for?” and keeping a gratitude journal where I write down something I am grateful for each day (or at least as often as I remember). I discovered over time that SO much of how I felt and how happy I was depended on where my focus and my thoughts were. When I made time to think about what I was grateful for, and express that gratitude by writing it down or sharing it with others, I realized just how many things I had to be thankful for in life, and I began seeing the positive in every situation. It became apparent to me that we really do create our own realities – and we have the power to shift our focus and perspective, which can truly shift our entire lives. Looking back now, that dark time in my life wasn’t a negative at all – it was a necessary and painful ending of my old life and a chance for me to forge ahead and create the new life I desired all on my own terms.
I am a much happier person now than I ever have been simply because I choose to notice and focus on the positive things that I am grateful for in life, rather than worrying about all the bad things that have happened or could happen, and seeking out or dwelling on negativity. Your thoughts and words have power, as do your actions and your choices. Why give the negative things in life MORE power by thinking of them incessantly, complaining about them to friends, and in general spending your energy generating this negativity? Why not focus on the positive and what you do like, count your blessings and tell yourself that you’re ok and things will get better? Staying positive can be difficult in tough situations, but it certainly can’t do any harm.
I think it was Buddha who said “What we think, we become,” and he’s right. Our thoughts inform our speech, our actions, our beliefs, and our lives. We have the power to manifest anything we put our minds to. Focusing on positivity leads to more positivity, while focusing on negativity leads to more negativity. It really is that simple. Being constantly down and dwelling on what’s wrong, comparing yourself to others and complaining about what you don’t have is only going to lead you to more of the same – negativity. Smiling through your tears, thinking of everything you do have to be grateful for, and focusing on the silver linings and celebrating small victories in life will bring more positivity and more happiness. Having an attitude of gratitude leads to living a happier, more fulfilling life. Or at least it’s working pretty damn well for me!
So, what are you grateful for?