Thanksgiving is a time for being grateful for all that we have. It’s easy to be thankful for the good things in life—shelter, family, friends, work, financial security, etc. What about the not-so good things—illnesses, lay-offs, financial struggle, broken marriages? Practicing gratitude goes beyond counting blessings; it’s about being grateful for everything in life, including the perceived “bad” stuff. It’s easy to let blessings go by unrealized if you aren’t consciously aware of what is happening.
Some philosophers would agree, in order to become fully aware, one must first understand this: Everything in life isn’t happening to you but, for you. Even though it may be hard to see the good that comes from inconveniences, bad news and uncomfortable situations, trust that there is a reason. Each occurrence is shaping you in a way that no other experience could. The ability to practice gratitude helps to lessen anxiety and panic, clearing your mind to develop effect solutions and coping mechanisms.
Gratitude does take a lot of practice. Let’s explore the difference between counting blessings and practicing gratitude.
Scenario: Susie spent most of her morning battling grouchy kids who were not cooperating. To make matters worse, the bus was late picking them up, consequently causing Susie to be pressed for time. As she hurriedly went through her morning routine, she accidentally spilled coffee on her white shirt. After changing, she glanced at the clock, telling herself that she will likely still be on time for work. Finally, she sits in the car, buckles and turns the key. The car isn’t starting. It won’t even turn over.
Here is where choices come in. Susie could choose to have a meltdown here. She’s had a bad morning and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. This doesn’t happen because Susie tends to be optimistic about things and refuses to let this ruin her day. She alerts her boss about her car trouble and arranges for alternate transportation. While she waits on her ride, she counts her blessings as she was taught as a kid. At least I have a car. It still has a warranty so I will get it checked out this afternoon after work and it’ll be fine, she thinks to herself.
There’s nothing wrong with this. However, practicing
gratitude is a little different than counting blessings.
Here’s what it looks like: Once Susie realizes the car won’t start, she closes her eyes and takes a deep breath to calm herself. She thinks to herself, Thank you for this moment, the instances this morning are helping me learn patience and putting me exactly where I need to be in this moment. Opening her eyes to reach for her phone, she realizes that her car is still in “Drive” from the night before. She had turned the car off before putting it in “Park”. Smiling to herself as she puts the shifter in the correct position, the car starts. Still chuckling to herself about the silly mistake, as she neared the office, she noticed a three car pileup. Again, she gave thanks for her delays as she could’ve been involved in the accident had she been on time.
Practicing gratitude is a slightly different approach to counting blessings but can make a
huge difference in how experiences are processed. Counting blessings helps to distract while being grateful for every situation promotes acceptance. Acceptance is the catalyst for changing your perspective, which leads to many great life changes. Make this November a time of practicing gratitude in preparation for better things to come. Happy Thanksgiving!
“…Life change comes when we receive life with thanks
and ask for nothing to change.” –Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are