As promised, this blog will be devoted just on gratitude.
With Thanksgiving coming up this month it’s a good time to reflect on the history of Thanksgiving, on the meaning of gratitude and how we can incorporate a more thankful attitude in our own lives. Not just one day per year, but every day.
While we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Europe (anymore), it is actually of European and Native traditions. In Europe we used to give thanks for a good harvest and to rejoice together after much hard work with the rest of the community. When Europeans first arrived to America they brought along their harvest festival traditions. In the US Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November by federal legislation in 1941 and has been an annual tradition in the United States by presidential proclamation since 1863 and by state legislation since the Founding Fathers of the United State.
But what does gratitude or thankfulness mean? Well, Wikipedia describes it as “a feeling, emotion or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive”. Ok, that’s good for the theory, but what about the practical part?
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” — Albert Einstein
Thankfulness is a state of mind. It’s how we perceive our lives. We can choose to be angry, jealous, negative, sad, worried, or we can do the opposite, and try and find the positive aspects in our lives. (Read my previous blog entry on the battle of the 2 wolves we have within ourselves). We can choose to see the beauty in the most little things. A smile from a stranger on the street can be so uplifting. Be aware of how good it feels when you smile at someone you don’t know. It’s so simple, yet so effective. Be thankful for all smiles and just like Albert Einstein try and see everything as a miracle.
You have a job you hate or colleagues that drive you mad? You go home and complain to your wife about your day at work? Let me tell you, I did the same for many years. Until one day recession hit Europe and my company closed down. Suddenly I had no job and no idea when I would get the next one. But in my case I was even grateful for having lost my job, as it was then that I realised that what I had been doing for so many years wasn’t fulfilling me and I changed my career path completely: from having a six-figure salary in Switzerland working in Marketing to studying to become a Reiki practitioner in Bangkok. The journey was immense but that’s what I needed to happen in my life and without losing that job I would probably never have found out what really fulfills me.
What I’m trying to say here is: no matter how bad it seems to get in our lives - And of course there are much worse things in life than just losing a job you hated anyways. But there is always light at the end of the tunnel and I’m a firm believer that everything in life happens for a purpose. It’s just up to us to acknowledge it and make the best out of it. If life gives you lemons, make lemon juice, right? :-) And since we are talking about fruits: A Vietnamese proverb says: “When eating fruit, think of the person who planted the tree”.
It’s so easy to be grateful for the little things. Next time you go to your kitchen and grab an apple just remember to be grateful for the fact that nature provides us with such amazing food and be thankful for the people who actually planted these trees and picked the apple for you.
I make it a daily habit in the evening, just before going to sleep, to count the things I was grateful for during the day and it feels so good to sleep afterwards. First you only might find a few reasons to be grateful for, but eventually you will become better and better in perceiving the beauty and the perfection of so many things that happen in your life. A wonderful way to record these feelings is to have a gratitude journal handy. Write it all down so you can monitor your progress.
Another way to practice finding beauty in small things you would normally never acknowledge is to take your camera and go out and take pictures. Look for the beauty of flowers and nature. Observe kids playing on the streets. Look at the wise elders sitting on park benches and try and capture their smiles. It's amazing what we suddenly become aware of just because we have a camera in our hands...
It is not surprising that research has proven that practicing gratitude has an immense effect on our health, happiness and overall well-being. As Drs. Blaire and Rita Justice reported for the University of Texas Health Science Center, "a growing body of research shows that gratitude is truly amazing in its physical and psychosocial benefits." To read more about this research click here.
Always try and concentrate on the things you have in your life and not on those you don’t have. “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” — Epictetus
In my experience, I know lots of people who have it all: a good income, a beautiful apartment, lovely kids, a loving wife/husband and yet, they are all still looking for more. More money, a promotion, a better car, more holidays, more this and that. Of course it’s important to have goals and aspirations in life but my advice to these people would be to try and live more in the NOW, instead of daydreaming about more income and a fancy car in the future.
Here is a list of what I'm currently grateful for:
- I’m grateful for my mother, who always supports me, no matter what I choose to do in my life
- I’m grateful to have two little amazing sisters who I love unconditionally
- I’m grateful that my sister gave birth to my baby niece who is the most adorable little girl on this planet!
- I’m grateful for my father for having taught me a big lesson in life
- I’m grateful I had the chance to live in so many different countries and to be able to experience different cultures and religions
- I’m grateful I have the means to travel a lot
- I’m grateful for all the beautiful souls I keep meeting and attracting into my life
- I’m grateful for Reiki which has embarked me on a huge journey of self-descovery
- I’m grateful for being healthy
- I’m grateful for having found my calling after many years of struggling and not being happy with the work I was doing
- I’m grateful that I live close to a park where I can feed squirrels and turtles whenever I want
- I’m grateful that I am able to experience gratefulness even for the smallest things in my life
- I’m grateful that after travelling for nearly 1 ½ years and living in the most random places I finally understood that happiness cannot be found anywhere. It’s not connected to a place, to certain people or material things. Everything I need to be happy I carry it within myself!
- Last but not least, I’m grateful to have learned to live in the NOW and not dwelve in the past or constantly worry about my future. I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now and that makes me feel like the happiest person alive :-)
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