It’s officially the start of Thanksgiving week, and I have to admit- the older I get, the more I appreciate the simplicity of this November holiday.
There’s no big tree to hunt down and decorate. No eggs to hide in anticipation of a scavenger hunt, no costumes to create or trick-or-treat candy to buy, and no firework shows to attend.
Nothing but a ‘simple’ dinner spent with family and friends.
[Now before my readers hate on me, I DO recognize that there are some extremely hardworking men + women putting some serious time in the kitchen in preparation for this meal.]
But for me- Thanksgiving just has more of a laid back feel to it that I can’t help but embrace.
I mean, why don’t we celebrate more days by stuffing ourselves with piles of food and then napping it off in the ultimate food coma?!
Growing up around my family dinner table, we didn’t have many traditions- however, there were a few things you could always count on. For instance, before every Thanksgiving meal, it was customary for everyone to share a few things that they were most thankful for.
As a young girl, there were many years I passed my turn, too shy to really say much (and too impatient to wait any longer for dinner). Later, as I grew older, I would muster some sort of satisfactory answer just covering the basics- you know, I was thankful for my friends and my family, my teachers at school and of course for the large meal that was sitting in front of us all.
Never did I express too many details. And I most definitely didn’t feel the need to talk at length like my parents did when their turns came. In all honesty what was the point? Of course, I was grateful for all that I had in my life… why state the obvious to a table full of hungry people?
Fast forward ten years and I’ll admit I have a newfound appreciation for the ritual. I’m still a far cry from gushing every last thought that pops into my mind (that’s just not my personality), but I’m a bit more intentional in expressing my gratitude.
In this blog post, I’m sharing with you the real reasons why gratitude is so powerful and how you can use a gratitude journal to, quite literally, transform your life.
This post may contain affiliate links, for more information, see my disclosures here.
For the record, my desire to be more grateful wasn’t triggered by a near-death experience nor any other life-altering event. Rather, it was a string of mediocre and discouraging months that had me suddenly searching for meaning and purpose.
I’ll be honest, this past year didn’t exactly turn out the way I had imagined it would…
I felt stuck in a stagnant, dead-end job. While I was making enough money to squeak by, I wasn’t exactly living a life of surplus- one where I could afford a relaxing vacation getaway, or even just a guilt-free afternoon shopping spree at the mall.
And after working for the same company for 15 years, I just felt bored and uninspired by my work (work I once loved!).
What’s worse, I felt insecure in my romantic relationship. Things weren’t exactly rocky between my partner and I, yet it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows either. He showed his affection, but at times I wanted more. Too afraid to be labeled as “clingy”, I pushed-back my own needs, convincing myself that they were unimportant.
To top the cake, I felt conflicted, unable to wrap my mind around what was actually missing from my life. I had a steady job, a loving boyfriend, supportive family & friends, a house to live in, a reliable vehicle and so much more… so why wasn’t I happy?
Using Gratitude to Enhance Well-being:
Call it luck, fate, or some combination of the two- a book, aptly named The Gratitude Diaries, found its way into my hands. At first, the title: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life, seemed a bit too good to be true, but with skepticism, I worked my way through the chapters, surprised by how well I could relate to the content.
I was struck by the realization that ‘…you don’t need good events in your life in order to feel gratitude. Instead grateful people reframe whatever happens to them’. By that logic, it would be entirely possible to feel some sort of gratitude towards my unfulfilling career, my monotonous relationship and the other disheartening pieces of my life. ‘Just how?’ was an entirely different question though.It's not joy that makes us grateful. It is gratitude that makes us joyful. -author unknown Click To Tweet
Unfortunately none of us are born pre-programmed for gratitude. On the contrary, we are hard-wired to focus on the negative encounters in life. Think about it: Do we rejoice because thorn bushes have roses, or do we complain because rose bushes have thorns?
It’s likely the latter! Perhaps more relevant to this day and age- think of just how often we allow one negative comment on social media to overshadow the hundreds (or thousands) of positive ones.
And speaking of social media- when’s the last time you posted something uplifting as your Facebook status rather than griping about the speeding ticket you received, the long hours you had to put in at the office, or the old lady who cut you off in the grocery store?
The Benefits of a Gratitude Journal:
One of the easiest ways to drastically improve feelings of gratitude in your own life is to keep a gratitude journal. Research has found that people who write down just three things they are grateful for each night ‘improve their well-being and lower their risk of depression’.
Not only that but they also dramatically improve their ability to get a good night’s sleep… how’s that for an added bonus?
Though I have yet to put the idea of a gratitude journal into practice for any length of time I have noticed more moments of calm in my life; a little less aggression; and stronger, more improved relationships with those closest to me.
Over all, I’m feeling just a bit more optimistic.'A grateful heart is a magnet for miracles'Click To Tweet
Perhaps what I’m most thankful for in this experience is the ability to find new perspectives in old situations.
Remember that job I hated? Gratitude has allowed me to appreciate it for what it is- a little bit of extra motivation to work harder on my side hustle (this blog) so that I may one day become the full-time blogger I desire to be.
How about that less-than-stellar relationship? By writing down those moments in which I’m grateful that my boyfriend shows his affection, I’m realizing that he does show it more than I give him credit for.
The Real Power of Gratitude:
I know what you’re thinking (because for a long time I thought it too), but how does changing our perspective on a situation fix any sort of problem? If anything it seems that reframing the issue only makes us ignore it…
Do me a favor and think of a time when you were really mad about something.
Perhaps, your roommate ate the leftovers you hid in the refrigerator, your husband forgot your anniversary, your boss gave the promotion to your co-worker even though you’ve worked there longer …
Odds are you probably replayed whatever it was a thousand times in your head. And I’d wager that the more you thought about the event, the madder you became over the situation (…am I right?).
Thinking about it didn’t solve any problems but it didn’t exactly put you in the right mindset to correct the problem either (…now did it?). I know that after repeating the same scenario in my head sixty-two times my anger gets the best of me and I’m more likely to settle the score by any means possible.
Now try that same exercise again but in reverse. Look for the good. Discover reasons to be grateful.
Like before, thinking about it didn’t suddenly erase the issue but this time I bet you’re at least in the right frame of mind to act positively in the situation.
With an attitude of gratitude, you’re more apt to react with good intentions! And science agrees- ‘…whatever the brain does a lot, it gets good at. If through gratitude, you create a positive mood, you reinforce the brain pathways that will then generate more positive feelings’.
So, I challenge you to find reasons in your day to be grateful. Life doesn’t have to be going your way for there still to be good in it.
I further challenge you to continue this grateful spirit even beyond the Thanksgiving Holiday. Make it a habit and see just how much your year transforms because of it!
Need help getting started with your own gratitude journal? Don’t worry, I got you, my friend. Enter your email address below for instant access to my 7-Days of Gratitude downloadable journal prompts:)
And don’t be shy… let me know in the comments below what you most thankful for this Thanksgiving.
Here to support YOU! XO- Britney (ms.fit.farmer)