We all have our stuff, our challenges and heartaches, our stresses and upsets, our obstacles and hurdles. Yet it is into this mix that gratitude becomes not only an antidote for what ails us, but in fact changes everything.
Although I am still working on it, I have come to realize that when I practice gratitude and more importantly act on it, express it, and share it, my perspective about everything changes.
The days in which I am in touch with and express gratitude are vastly different than the days in which I am not grounded in a spirit of thankfulness. It has also become clear that “thank you” are two extraordinary words. When we look into the eyes of another, pause, and say “Thank You,” the impact on us is no less poignantly powerful than it is for the recipient of our gratitude.
From one unknown source is the following story.
One day a rabbi said, “One is obligated to say a benediction, meaning a blessing, over evil as well as a benediction over good. Why? Because evil is a good thing? Suffering a good thing? Of course not! Absolutely not! Those are bad things and God is at work to one day overcome and overturn them.”
The rabbi explained that one is obligated to say a benediction or a blessing at all times because we are always in danger of being thankful only when good things come our way. When we do that, our threshold for gratitude gets higher and higher and we become ungrateful people.
Said another way, we are called to work on gratitude in the midst of all circumstances. This does not mean saying thank you for what is terrible, it means in the midst of what is awful, finding things for which to be grateful and expressing it. All this means not waiting for only what is great or goes our way or is perfect, before we feel thankful.
Remember too that gratitude is not just a feeling or something to wait for, rather it is something to choose.
We can say to ourselves, “I choose to be grateful today. I choose to be thankful. I choose to express gratitude toward others during the course of this day. I may not have total control over what is going on, but I choose to find things for which to be grateful today.”
Gratitude is a moment-to-moment decision.
Related to this, I would encourage you to pick a day and commit to saying thank you to as many people as you can. Servers. Store attendants. A neighbor. People you work with. The person who invites you to pass by in a crowded grocery store aisle. You might be surprised by what happens to others, as well as the impact it will have on you.
Complaining, whining, criticizing, tearing down, gossip, violent movies or games, vicious song lyrics that degrade, and on and on, all get into our brains and affect how we think and how we process all that is around us. Want to develop more gratitude? Turn all that stuff off and turn up your level of thankfulness.
When you wake up each morning in this season of Thanksgiving, remember, gratitude changes everything.