Today we talk about something so simple but so powerful…gratitude. The word gratitude is thrown around a lot, especially around Thanksgiving and the holidays. But, this is a practice that can benefit you any time of year.
Gratitude is defined as the quality of being thankful.
And one definition of the word thankful is being pleased and relieved. What a statement. That is a state of mind I would love to be in all of the time, to be relieved.
Include the Powerful Practice of Being Grateful
Simply noticing and acknowledging the goodness in our lives can be a powerful practice. And I do not mean being thankful for money or gifts or those big things. I am talking about gratitude for the little things we need for survival, which keep us going.
I recently watched this man crossing the street. He was in a wheelchair. Not an electric one. He was working so hard, pushing and pulling to cross the street and using every muscle in his arms to propel himself forward to the other side. Cars were driving around him since he was taking longer than the timing of the light to complete his crossing. I watched him slowly get to the other side and continue on his way. I had three simultaneous feelings:
- Part of me felt horrible for not leaving my car and helping him cross.
- Part of me felt amazed by the strength he needed to simply cross a street.
- And another part of me thought that perhaps he did not need my help at all because this was just the way his day goes.
What Are Some Things You Take For Granted?
This experience made me think of the simple things I take for granted. Working legs. Strength in my body. Breath in my lungs. The ability to cross a street without thinking about it and without having to use all the power in my body to get to the other side. These little things for me make my life so much easier than his. These abilities and body parts work to propel me forward.
And to think about it further, I wonder what would be on his gratitude list. Maybe what I witness as a struggle or a burden for him is not. Perhaps he has the outlook that he is grateful for that wheelchair that helps him move about. Maybe he is thankful for the ability to use his arms or for the person he was on his way to see. All that to say, we do not know what battles or triumphs another person is living through, but we are aware of our struggles and victories.
This is the gratitude I am talking about. We often have it so much easier than the people around us. This is not to boast about but to be thankful for. So even when we are having a bad day or struggling to get through the big things, slow down and try to find gratitude for the small stuff. Small things for us that could be big things to someone else. Even if everything is falling apart in our lives, there is something we have that we can feel thankful for.
Count the Gifts in Your Life
I heard once that the things we have are the things that other people are praying for. Some of the items in our lives are gifts that we have forgotten we were given because we see them every day. Sometimes things are so much better than we feel if we can look at them from a different angle, an angle of appreciation.
So I encourage you today to begin thinking with more gratitude. Write a gratitude list at the beginning or end of the day to be aware of the good things in life. This simple practice can bring our attention to the goodness in life. There is always something going well, or that works. Sometimes your list may be longer than others, and that is okay. I genuinely believe that when we shift our focus towards what we do have, our mindset can improve a little bit. Our optimism can grow. We may even notice that things are much better than we thought.
To take this practice further, look back at your gratitude list from a day or a week ago. See what you were thankful for and remind yourself how things have changed or gotten better. When you have a hard day, you might look back and find something that could make the hard day not so hard. You might even notice that you have precisely what you need to get through the challenging moment you are experiencing.
So I leave you with this thought…. “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Brault
Notice today what is going well and what is working. Be thankful for it.
If you are struggling to find things in your life to be thankful for, it might be a good time to seek out a counselor.
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