Why give thanks?
Why express gratitude?
Does it really do any good to keep track of what you're thankful for or go around the table at Thanksgiving and share (to which most of the people gathered will inevitably reply, "I'm thankful for my friends and family," 'cause that's just how it goes)?
Expressing gratitude does make a difference.
Don't believe me?
Choosing to focus on what you're grateful for changes your outlook. Instead of seeing only what's challenging or difficult about life, it highlights the good things, both big and small. It forces you to remember that no matter what's happening, there is still good in the world.
Instead of seeing a closed door as the end of something you were hoping for, you can view it as a redirection toward something that will be even better. When faced with the option to grumble about having to drive to your vacation destination instead of fly, you can choose to rejoice in the fact that you get to go on vacation and make the most of the extra time with your fellow passengers!
I've done this recently with my business. The book I published at the end of May got some good traction right away, but since then hasn't been doing too well in terms of sales (that's putting it lightly, friends). At first I was really disappointed. I had been hoping it would do really well and be a good source of extra income.
But I chose to see it instead as a springboard for the rest of my business I've built since then, an amazing sort of business card, and component in establishing my credibility. The work I spent on it was not lost. Its value is not determined on the number of sales it does or doesn't get. I'm choosing to still value it and all it has taught me.
You can't be moaning and groaning about your plight and expressing gratitude at the same time. It's like trying to be both asleep and awake. If you're giving thanks, you're choosing to switch from thinking about the negative to instead think about the positive.
I've found that adopting a more thankful, positive mindset can be the singe most important thing in overcoming obstacles. When I think the challenges I'm facing are impossible or too difficult for me, I'm in effect giving myself an excuse to not try as hard as I otherwise would.
When I approach challenges and obstacles with the knowledge that I can overcome them, if not by my own strength and grit, then by the grace and strength of my God, then I can move mountains.
It's like shining a light into the dark depths of a basement. It makes things less scary and intimidating. It doesn't change the fact that the darkness is there, but neither does it deny the existence of or the overwhelming power of the light.
When you adopt a regular practice of thanksgiving, it changes you from the inside out. You begin seeing more things that you can be thankful for. They were already there, but because you know believe that there is good in the world, your eyes are opened to them. It makes you more joyful, because you trust that there are good things even in the midst of the bad things. Choosing gratitude helps you see the glass as half-full instead of half-empty.
When I'm constantly thinking of negative things, I find myself feeling very touchy, grouchy, and irritable. The littlest thing can feel like the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. Last week, I had trouble (lots and LOTS of trouble) opening a jar of salsa. I'm talking 20 minutes spent trying to wrench the thing open with all the tools at my disposal. I ended up walking away and coming back to it later, only to find out it was still stuck.
I kept trying, again and again and again, because I felt like I had really put in the work and I REALLY wanted that salsa after all my efforts to open it. I did finally get it open (after another 10 minutes), and it was that much sweeter for having waited so long for it.
I realize this is a pretty small example, but it felt like a big one to me in the moment, when I was forced to choose to either give up in frustration and grumble to myself about the "stupid salsa jar" or take a break, gather up my (literal) strength, and return with fresh energy and renewed commitment and belief in my abilities to open said jar.
Why do you give thanks? Did any of these reasons strike a chord with you? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!
And if you'd like to share what you're thankful for on Instagram, I encourage you to use the hashtag #attitudeofgratitudechallenge-- and you can find me and my posts about what I'm thankful for on my account: @jessiepierce019