The Art of Being Thankful

While many of us enjoy Thanksgiving as a time for food and football, it’s important to remember that this is a time to cherish what we have. It’s very easy to feel entitled and take many of our basic needs, such as food, shelter and family, for granted. Instead of complaining about dry turkey or annoying cousins, join me in a Thanksgiving promise to be more grateful throughout the entire year.

One day when I was a little boy, my mother made me change out of my good clothes before going out to play. I didn’t see the point, and when I complained, she would say, “When you pay for them, you’ll appreciate them more.” As an adult, I now realize that she was trying to instill in me a sense of appreciation for everything I had, no matter how big or small.

Historically, each generation makes fewer sacrifices than the last. Luckily, most of us grew up with more than our parents and grandparents. In giving our children more than we had, we can run the risk of unintentionally instilling a sense of entitlement. While it is wonderful to give your children an iPod or other expensive toys, there should be a sense of understanding that goes along with the gift that it is a gift that was paid for by working hard and honestly, and is something that should be appreciated and not expected. Whether it is washing dishes or getting straight A’s, let your children work toward their gifts. Rewards are not a given; they are earned.

As adults, it can be easy to live in the mindset of entitlement and take our lives for granted. When you feel entitled to something you do not possess, be thankful for what is in front of you. Focusing on the positive puts you in a loving, productive headspace. Ironically that is exactly the right psyche to work toward what you desire.

It can be difficult to shift from entitled to grateful. One way to do this is by volunteering to help others, perhaps at a homeless shelter or other place that assists people who are experiencing misfortune. If you make an effort to connect with those individuals, you will realize their stories might not be that different from your own. It is important to realize that we are not immune to hard times. Appreciate where you are in the here and now.

Another helpful tool is to keep a gratitude journal. When you wake up in the morning, think about every little thing you are grateful for. Keep a notebook by your bed and write it down. You’ll be overwhelmed at how much good is in your life.

Before you get wrapped up in the holidays, reflect on what is important to you. Concentrate on others that have less and serve them. This year, instead of or in addition to, making those New Years’ resolutions, make yourself a Thanksgiving Promise – a promise to be thankful during the year ahead for what you have, and to make an effort to instill gratitude in your children, family and friends.

And if you want to enjoy some good food and football that’s OK too!

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