It’s a word that is tossed around a lot around this time of year. It’s Thanksgiving, the time of thanks. Traditions around the dinner table may include saying something you’re grateful for, praying about your thankfulness, or sometimes in my family we put up paper on the walls for everyone to write down what they are thankful for and everyone gets to examine it.
This can be uncomfortable, exciting, emotional, or cathartic. Depending on who you are, where you come from, and your circumstances leading up to that one big moment of “What are you grateful for “this year”.
Today, in my therapy group we discussed Gratefulness in a little more detail. Many times, it is easier to be grateful for others than it is for ourselves. How uncomfortable to dig deep and expose the parts of you that are wonderful and positive. Why is that uncomfortable? In my experience, we don’t want to talk to others about what we are grateful for in ourselves. Society often mistakes this gratitude in ourselves as boasting, or bragging, or having a big ego.
It doesn’t have to be that way. The truth is, the more gratitude you have for yourself, the more it spills into other areas of your life. Starting with gratitude with others is wonderful, but also including yourself in that equation is even more powerful. I had to state three things I was grateful for about MYSELF in therapy today. That junk is hard. I sat there thinking, and came up with resilient, compassionate, and creative/resourceful. And when I start to look at my life, I see these common things in everything that I do or have done. It was hard, but worth it to think about myself. Feelings of positivity followed and I was certainly ready to continue with the group in a lighter, more positive spirit.
So, what does gratitude give us? It gives us contentment, positive feelings and emotions, and it can also reduce anxiety and depression. Physically, it can help lower blood pressure, strengthen our immune systems, make us more tolerable to aches and pains, and give us better quality of sleep. I don’t know about you, but when I talk about the good things, the better I feel. Instead of, “why the hell aren’t the dishes done again”, I learn to find the positive in something. The dishes may not have been done, but I’m grateful that the kids cleaned the floors and took out the trash. Those things they did would be overshadowed by the one thing they didn’t if it wasn’t for gratefulness. And isn’t that so easy? You do ten things right, and the one time it’s wrong is when you get all of the attention. This is a game of ungratefulness.
Gratitude is a key to strong relationships. Feeling and expressing gratitude connects us and creates more satisfaction within the relationship. Gratefulness generally leads to a sense of self worth and the ability to be more helpful and compassionate to others. I don’t know about you, but when I sit and complain about my partner, or my kid, or my job, the more negative I become and it just feels BAD. It rubs off on those around me, I end up hurting feelings or neglecting responsibilities because of unnecessary anxiety and worry. But when I am present, and I speak those words of encouragement into existence, it changes everything.
My daughter was struggling with her remote learning. She is in the 7th grade and was failing every single class the first quarter of this year. (Thanks COVID), and all I did was punish her. “You are old enough to be responsible for your work. If you don’t understand, you need to ask your teacher, you’re grounded, you’re phone is mine, etc etc” She didn’t improve, and in fact, told me point blank that I thought she was stupid. I never said the words, but I made her feel that way. The moment I sat down with her, created a plan with a new planner I got her, and encouraged her for every good grade, every assignment not missed, the better she got. She is passing after just a few short weeks and I now try to encourage her through my gratefulness than to bring her down with my ungratefulness. What a difference it makes!!
When I say thank you, and not the obligatory kind, but the genuine “thank you” followed by what you are actually thankful for generally leads to some form of happiness or joy to the one you are expressing it to. It acknowledges their efforts and makes them feel appreciated. I don’t know about you, but feeling unappreciated is one of the worst feelings in the world, (said every mom of any age group, but especially teens) haha.
So in the spirit of Thanksgiving let’s start a new tradition or two. Don’t get rid of your Thanksgiving Blessings, but don’t stop there. Make gratefulness a daily challenge. Because even on the worst days, there is always something, even if so small, that you can be grateful for. Write them down in a journal, or start a gratitude jar with sticky notes. Then next year, instead of one grateful thing around the table, maybe you can include many grateful things throughout the year.
One Flawsome Momma