For many people, the only time they feel grateful is on Thanksgiving, which accounts for only one day out of the whole year. But making gratefulness a daily ritual can really impact one’s perspective on their life and even the world.
All of the notable spiritual teachers who focus on positive thinking such as Louise Hay, Dr. Wayne Dyer, and the authors of The Secret highly advocate thinking—and more importantly, feeling—grateful day in and day out. Being grateful delivers many valuable benefits.
For starters, when you’re grateful for anything you have in your life—whether it’s other people, your job, or your talents—you’re immediately putting the focus on what you currently have in your life versus dwelling on the things you don’t have. So many people love to obsess over what they feel their life is lacking, such as a romantic partner or money. The more they think about what they don’t have, the more the universe continues to snowball those negative thoughts and feelings about what’s missing, and unfortunately that lack can continue to show up time and again in someone’s life.
By focusing on what you have, you’re reminding yourself that things are not as bad with your life as you might perceive them to be. Perhaps you are not crazy about your old, scratched car and wish you had a brand new one. But consider that there are people who don’t own cars and can’t afford one or the required upkeep due to financial circumstances—or they have a physical disability that makes it impossible for them to drive. Being grateful can really help you keep things in a realistic perspective.
It doesn’t have to be the most obvious achievements, either. I often give thanks for the fact that I can see, and walk, and breathe—and for the friendly guy who cleans our office building and who greets me every weekday morning without fail with a genuine smile and “good morning.” Being grateful in this way gives you a whole new appreciation on life and love for everyone and everything around you.
After reading several books about positive thinking in the past few years, I firmly believe that when you are grateful for something or someone, the universe continues to deliver similar circumstances to you. As a Christian and spiritual person, I feel that God—or any label of your choice for a higher power—is really pleased when people are grateful for something in their lives.
Author and spiritual teacher Louise Hay, in an interview clip on YouTube, likens the experience to receiving an actual present from a friend. She states that many of us would never think of complaining about the gift, and would never hurt that friend’s feelings by telling them they don’t like the present, or failing to thank them for it, but that so many people ignore the gifts they receive that make up their positive life circumstances.
When you’re aware of and focusing on what you have to be grateful for, it can really inspire you to help others who are less fortunate. For example, I’m grateful to have grown up in a household that always had food on the table for each meal, and that I live in America where any kind of food is readily available and affordable (for me.) I’m also extremely thankful that I am healthy, love to exercise, and have a body that works perfectly in every way. That has made me more aware of how some families cannot afford healthy food, particularly during tough economic times, which is why I participate in the annual Walk for Hunger, a 20 mile charity walk through Boston neighborhoods that raises money for local food banks. I love the satisfaction I get of walking with thousands of other people and knowing that I’m helping to provide food to Massachusetts residents who are less fortunate.
So how can we get started on feeling grateful everyday? One of the more popular activities is to keep a gratitude journal—it doesn’t have to be a fancy diary, as even a regular lined notebook will do—and simply list every day or whenever possible the things we have to be grateful for in our lives. When you’re feeling down or letting those negative thoughts infiltrate your day, the journal serves as a reminder to focus on what you have and helps you remain positive.
You can also post the list on a vision board, a tool that many positive thinkers use to pin images representing the type of life they wish to create. Seeing the list in a prominent area of your home every day can help remind you to be grateful.
Another tactic is to start each day, as you get out of bed, thinking about everything and everyone in your life that makes you grateful. Ending your day this way, before falling asleep, can really keep them embedded in your subconscious mind over the course of the night.
There’s no question that staying grateful—everyday, not just on Thanksgiving—can really enrich one’s life.