It's officially the season of gratitude! By now, our social media feeds have begun filling up with posts about every little thing someone can think of to be thankful for. I don't ever participate in these, because I would undoubtedly forget to post something every day and find myself posting a list of 10 things halfway through the month to catch up. However, I find it encouraging to read other people's posts and see that as a whole, we are not the selfish, entitled citizens we're often made out to be.
For some reason, approaching the holidays encourages us to reflect on our blessings, enjoy life a little more, and pass the joy along to others. It's wonderful! But what if we could tap into that feeling more often than the last couple of months of each year? What if we could practice gratitude every day?
Well, the good news is that I'm here to tell you, you can! It will take conscious effort and practice, but here are 7 simple ways you can start today and keep it up 'til next November!
1. Write it down.
Do you keep a journal? I know, I know, it's too much work or it makes you feel vulnerable, or maybe you just hate writing! But physically writing things down is actually a proven way to process emotions, increase focus, and improve memory. Next time you're at the store, grab a cheap notebook (or a really cute one!) and place it by your bed. Start your morning off by making a list of a few things you are grateful for. It could be as simple as starting every day thankful for waking up and having a new opportunity to live your life to the fullest.
For those who do enjoy writing (or who discover it's not as bad as it seems,) use your journal time to really delve into what makes you feel grateful. To get you started, here is a link to 120 prompts:
2. Tell Someone.
There are a couple of ways you can take this tip. First, make it a daily habit to tell other people what you are thankful for. We spend so much time "venting" to others about our bad days, our family members, our friends, our jobs... the list is never ending. But how often to we actually tell them about the good in our lives? By shifting our focus, we may be able to put ourselves and our friends in a better mood!
The other half of this is remembering to tell others why you are grateful for them. There is a reason each person is in your life. Otherwise, you probably would have cut them out a long time ago! Don't just assume that person knows why they are important to you. Tell them about the unique ways they make your life better. Not only does it make them feel good, but it may also help you get over any negative emotions you may have been feeling toward them.
This is probably one of the easiest tasks on the list! At the end of your day, whether it's as you lay down to sleep or as you are doing your nighttime routine, take the time to go over the day in your head. But instead of focusing on what went wrong, think about what went right. What little moments made your day brighter? Who really touched you today? What was able to put a smile on your face? End your day with these thoughts, and see how much easier you fall asleep (and wake up refreshed.)
4. Take time for something you enjoy.
Participating in activities we enjoy gives us a natural feeling of gratitude. We experience feelings of happiness in the ability to do that thing and recharge by spending some time on ourselves. Taking care of yourself is not selfish. (I'll say it again for the people in the back...) You are NOT selfish for taking some time to take care of YOU. In fact, self-care makes you a better person. Find the balance and see how gratitude flows from yourself into others. If its been a while since you've taken care of you, check out this list of ideas and try a few to find out what you enjoy.
5. Use your talents.
What are you good at? Hint: Everyone has a talent for something (even if it's not a widely celebrated talent.) Do you use it often? Doing the things you're good at is a great way to show gratitude. I believe strongly that God has given each of us gifts and talents for a specific purpose, and He wants us to use them! In the same way you feel good when you see someone using a gift you've given them, it blesses the Father's heart to see us using what we've been given, even if it's just for our own enjoyment. So find what you're good at, and go do it!
6. Focus on the good.
It is SO easy to fix our thoughts on negative feelings--toward ourselves, toward others, and toward our daily activities.
"I hate it when my hair does that!"
"My job is such a pain."
"My husband NEVER helps around the house."
Have you ever heard the expression that what you water will grow? If we continuously focus on the negative aspects of our life, eventually, those weeds are going to grow so high that it's impossible to see the harvest of good things we are actually surrounded by. Every time you catch yourself speaking about something negatively, counteract it with a positive thought. For example:
"I hate it when my hair does that! But it really looked good the other day when..."
"My job is such a pain, but I have wonderful coworkers who make it worth coming in."
"My husband NEVER helps around the house, but he works hard to provide for our family."
Change the dialogue in your mind, and see what outgrows the weeds.
7. Do something for someone else.
I often see people realize just how blessed they are after they have done something for someone less fortunate than themselves. Feeding the hungry makes us appreciate the food in our stomach. Helping an elderly person makes us appreciate our health. When we serve others, we often find something for ourselves as well. The holidays are the most popular time to "give back," but you can find ways to do that year round and for any budget. Here's a list of some "random acts of kindness" for inspiration.
So there you have it! Get out there and be the most grateful, joyful version of yourself you can be. And while you've got Thanksgiving on your mind, don't forget to order your MATS Smoked Turkey or Pre-Cooked Ham to make your festivities go as smoothly as possible. It's a great way to give back to a program that is committed to helping the homeless in our area find their direction and become citizens who can continue the cycle of giving back. Order in person at 733 W. Main St. Morristown, TN 37814 or by clicking the link below. And check out next week's post in the Gratitude Series--Why does being grateful make me feel better?