Dishes clank, timers ding, laughter drifts in and out of the hallways of the house. Family members sit down to dinner and pass around casserole dishes warm and inviting with the smells of family recipes. As the heaps of mashed potatoes are piled on, someone will stop and instruct the table to go around person by person and state what they’re thankful for. “Family,” “My Health,” “Your Health,” “My Education.”
Of course we’re thankful for these things, but often times we regurgitate what we know we’re expected to be thankful for. Sometimes, gratitude is hard because life is hard. In particular, gratitude can be even harder during the holidays. The holidays are difficult. There are relationship strains with visiting guests, financial strains with expected presents and just the basic strain to maintain a certain level of happiness for 55 days straight.
However, even when we are feeling our lowest, we do have things for which to be grateful. Interestingly enough, studies have proven that being a grateful person often makes you a happier person – sort of a ‘you reap what you sow’ type deal. One study grouped participants into two separate groups. Group A spent time each day creating a gratitude journal, while Group B wrote down everyday annoyances. At the end of the study, Group A measured significantly happier.
Of course, we know this. A simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way and we’ve been taught that since preschool, but for what are we really thankful? At our lowest points, what do we have that we can celebrate? So much.
We can be thankful for internal things – the lives we’ve created, our jobs, our tenacity. We can be thankful for the external things as well – a friendly boss, the mailman who always asks about your day or the friend who always seems to know when you need a hand. Finally, we can be thankful for the little things. Right now, I’m thankful that my sweet dog has chosen to use my foot as a pillow. I will continue sitting in this position with my foot falling asleep until he wakes up – because I am thankful for his love.
I’m not saying that gratitude will be easy. I know there are people dreading the leftover election talk – sore losers and gloating winners. Take a deep breath and channel that anger elsewhere – like toward the dishes, maybe. Then, while you’re wrist deep in the roasting pan, start considering the little things. Start small and work your way up. When you think you can’t handle another politicized dig, be thankful that you live in a country where we can talk this way. When your aunt insults your theatre major, be thankful that you’re pursuing something you love and not stuck behind a desk all day.
So, today, I am challenging you to choose gratitude. Choose gratitude in the little things – even if today, the best you can muster is gratitude for stretchy pants, pie and family.