There are many days in our calendar that prompt us to remember things; no matter what our background, culture, beliefs, country of birth is. I say ‘remind us’ because it should be exactly that. We always say be loving to your spouse or partner every day, not just Valentine’s Day. Show love, kindness and respect to your parents each day, not just Mothering Sunday or Fathers Day. You can enjoy the giving of gifts for its own sake, not just on Christmas Day or Chinese New Year. Strive to get together with your wider family as often as possible, not just religious festivals. The same is true for Thanksgiving, we can be thankful every day of the year.
As we head toward Thanksgiving (4th Thursday of November every year) I wanted to explore that more fully with you all.
There are many stories about the origin of Thanksgiving, in fact, Canada celebrates it in October. You can choose one that suits you, but the typical one that is used is the arrival of the Mayflower from England at Plymouth Rock, Cape Cod in Massachusetts, USA in the 1600’s (www.plimoth.org ) . The pilgrims were thankful for safe travel, for an abundant harvest and they taught their children about being thankful for their freedom. The pilgrims shared their food with the Native Americans for welcoming them and helping them when they first arrived.
I recall living in Boston, Massachusetts, United States in the early 1990’s. In fact, I visited the replica village of Plymouth Plantation, and also visited the replica Mayflower Ship. I attended a few Thanksgiving meals with friends and family. After the meal, we would go around, in turn, saying what we were thankful for. It was so funny that the children would say they were thankful for things like their pocket money/allowance, the video player, but always said they were thankful for their Mom and Dad. I’m confident they knew if they didn’t say that their pocket money/allowance would stop!!! Very smart. As ladies, we were all thankful for tights/stockings and the invention of the microwave!
Others talk about being thankful for the ending of The Plague or the ending of a war. I am sure when the time comes, and hopefully very soon, the whole world will celebrate and be thankful for the ending of Covid-19.
For me, what is important is not to wait for something to happen in order to be thankful. If you do, you run the risk of living a very unhappy life while you wait, and you actually might miss the good stuff while you were avoiding things and people and passively waiting. What a shame that would be.
So here are some tips about being thankful everyday which interestingly and inevitably lead to increased happiness which will enable you to flourish and view life and its events in a more helpful way to you.
Look Around You
“Stop – and smell the roses”. It’s a really tough time for all of us right now, all dealing with our own personal issues over stress, work, family, illness. But the world hasn’t fully stopped. The flowers are still growing and smell beautiful. The rivers are still flowing. The birds are building their nests and are rearing their young and singing beautifully. The sunrise and sunset are still as stunning as the very first day on earth. The rain and storms are still as spectacular.
Each time you go out or see if you can try to take a walk in a park or green area, take in the beauty of the things you can see or hear or touch or smell. Just take a moment to enjoy those things. Stop, take a long deep breath and absorb those surroundings. I am not suggesting for one moment it will resolve the things you are worrying about. What it will do is keep you in the present. Right there, right then. Nothing will harm you. It will enable you to rest a moment then take a more helpful view of the things worrying you that prevent you from finding the answer. A small thing that can have a huge impact on your day and to be thankful for. I love to sit by the river or stay on the beach when others have left. Just sitting, just listening, nothing else. I really miss the dawn chorus that is famous in the UK. All the songbirds sing to mark their territory and woo the ladies. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6_LYIdYxz4
When you hear a change in the weather, do you just grumble? Is that helpful? Does it make you feel better? Why are you doing it then? Whatever age you are, STOP what you are doing, go to your window or door, take the children, show them the storm, build a happy memory. How much better will you feel after just taking that short break to share in the wonder and excitement of amazing weather. When my children were small, if there was a storm and I was still awake but they were in bed, I used to get them up, all sleepy and cute (!) and go outside the door and watch the storm. It’s still a great memory now, for that I am truly thankful.
Look Inside Yourself
Have you ever stopped and thought about yourself? I don’t mean the things you have achieved, the awards, the jobs, the qualifications, hobbies or interests you have. I mean the true qualities inside you. That person you are when you lie awake in bed in the night. Whatever life has thrown at you, you can be thankful you are a kind and caring person, a true friend, a good listener. If you don’t feel you are there yet, don’t worry. Be thankful that you have the sense to reflect and make positive changes to be kinder, a better friend or can take time to really listen to someone in trouble.
Start and End your Day being Thankful
As often as you can, aim to start and end your day with a thankful thought. I know that’s a tough one, I can’t even remember to take my prescribed medication in the morning!
I will admit I don’t start and end my day with a thankful thought every day, I do try. However I do live as though I am constantly getting out of the dentist chair, I am always so grateful it’s over. It works for me so I feel I am getting my quota of thankfulness. So all day, when something goes well, I am thankful. When something doesn’t go well or someone is unkind to me, I am thankful it is over or they have gone away. There is no help to me in focussing on the negative experience (being in the dentist chair), focus on the positive (being released from the dentist chair).
However, you know or assume your day is going to be, spend a few moments first thing in the morning and consider what you can be thankful for.:
- A roof over your head
- Plenty of drinkable water
- That you won’t go hungry
- Being able to enjoy the small free pleasures of life
- Access to the internet so that you can learn and connect with people
- Food Panda
At the end of the day spend a few moments to reflect on your day. Name three things that went well, three things you love, three things you have achieved. If you cried all day, well done, be thankful you got through your day in the best way you could and you let out your emotions. If you didn’t get upset at all, well done. Be thankful you also got through your day in the best way you could.
Being thankful isn’t always about having the things we want. Being thankful can be about the absence of pain, the absence of threats, the absence of illness. Being thankful is especially helpful to your wellbeing to ‘step out’ and put your situation in perspective when going through a tough time in life.
Choice – choose to be a thankful person
Being a thankful person can be a way of life. Often people are very critical of others, especially when expectations are not met. Your expectations. Is it better to be disgruntled with the other person, making them feel bad and inadequate, or thankful for what they have done, making them feel appreciated, more eager to learn and help when you have future conversations with them? If you can have a thankful attitude, the trade-off is that people will be more co-operative, but the main gain is that you will always start to see things in a more helpful way to you. As a CBT Therapist and previously a Mental Health Nurse, I never encourage people to put a positive spin on things. What I do is encourage people to consider alternate ways to view something they see as negative. Change their perspective, their response, their reactions. Bad news can usually only be that, how we respond to it makes it easier to deal with. Are you trapped at home socially cut off or are you thankful to be safe at home with clean running water, internet or phone connection to reach out to colleagues, friends and loved ones and can have food delivered to your door.
Tell Others you are Thankful
Q: What is a simple way of increasing your own happiness?
A: Increase the happiness of someone else
We all know how it makes us feel when someone has shown us gratitude and been thankful for what we have done or said. It makes us feel warm, fuzzy, happy, increases our confidence, spurs us on to do more. Imagine the power within you, by simply being thankful to another person and you can make them feel like this. You in turn can quietly enjoy the pleasure of seeing someone’s happiness. Happiness that you had a part in creating.
Here are some great quotes I found on being thankful.
- “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” -William Arthur Ward
- “No one who achieves success does so without acknowledging the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.” -Alfred North Whitehead
- “We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.” -H.A. Ironside
- “The way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.” -Charles Schwab
- “No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks”.–Unknown
- “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”–Marcel Proust
- “The world has enough beautiful mountains and meadows, spectacular skies and serene lakes. It has enough lush forests, flowered fields, and sandy beaches. It has plenty of stars and the promise of a new sunrise and sunset every day. What the world needs more of is people to appreciate and enjoy it.” -Michael Josephson
- “Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” -Brian Tracy
- “If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.” -Frank A. Clark
- “If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily.” -Gerald Good
- “Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.” -Alphonse Karr
- “Be grateful for what you have and stop complaining-it bores everybody else, does you no good, and doesn’t solve any problems.” -Zig Ziglar
Mrs Cathy Stronach | College Counsellor