“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
– Melody Beattie
For many of us, this year and this Thanksgiving seem immersed in sadness, various levels of isolation, and at times even darker emotions. How then to hear Melody Beattie’s words? I won’t deny the prominence of chaos, confusion, and the too frequent antagonism of both strangers and erstwhile friends. I similarly won’t allow those realities to inhibit a right and reasonable use of thankfulness to highlight the positives which by our focus will rise in prominence.
We truly can lift our thoughts and emotions by the deliberate choice to appreciate the positive parts of our lives all too often buried beneath the stresses, worries, and mundane routines of our everyday lives. Of course, most of us have hardships, and it is easy to focus on them and build momentum in the negative directions they promote.
Most of us have things which are not so hard to find if we simply choose to reject the focus for a time on the bad and pick out one point at a time which is good in our lives. In each step along this path, we build momentum in this direction and help our mind learn to focus on these things, draw them to the forefront, and build a stronger inner foundation with which to eventually face those challenging parts as well. This is the power of giving thanks, of feeling gratitude, of choosing to take the action of mindfully appreciating deserving aspects of our world.
Sometimes it is the people who influence our lives in healthy ways. Sometimes it is a gift in the world around us as simple as the beauty in a sunrise, the sound of a bird call, the smell of a balsam fir tree, or even the feel of the crisp morning air as it surges our lungs with wakeful awareness. It could be the wriggle and wag of a dog beside us (one of my favorites), the words of a favorite author, the voice of a loved one’s compassion, or so many things which inspire us to thankfulness.
Appreciation is the act of bringing these things forward to focus on them by any means. We may speak them to share our gratitude with others. We may simply think of them and have it emphasize the feeling of gratitude lying dormant within us until we act. For most of us, there are a worthy number of things for which to be grateful and “Thanksgiving” is not simply a day in late November.
Gratitude is a means to allow us to start our morning a little better. It is a means by which we can lift a day struggling and heading the wrong way. It is absolutely a means by which, even in a year as challenging as 2020, we can choose to acknowledge all the real challenges, mourn their impact, and still take the action to appreciate the positives and make them our foundation for moving forward with positive momentum toward healthier directions.