We grew up with enough but not much. We shopped at the Goodwill and going to Sears meant new clothes. Remember the excitement of each new Sears Catalog? The Red Lobster was a big deal too – an expensive night out. I have forgotten my feeling of the decadence of those dinners.
When I was in high school we lived for a year without running water. Imagine that. I was so grateful when we finally moved to a house with water. I told myself to never forget the joy and thankfulness of having running water. I’ve forgotten that too.
When something “bad” happens I tend to focus on what’s happened rather than what can now happen with this new life change. Know what I mean?
The only obstacle to being thankful is not observing with attention. We grow used to what we have and we start to take it for granted. Honestly, it feels weird to be writing about this during the holidays – when everything’s about being thankful. I want to remember this all year round.
How about this:
Be grateful for what you already have.
Declare what you would like to have with positive emotion.
Act on the opportunities that appear in front of you.
Notice how his emphasis is on being thankful for what you already have before asking for something else.
Here are my strategies for staying grateful (hopefully for more than the holiday season):
- Remember the Bad. When we remember how difficult life used to be and where we are now, we set the stage for gratefulness.
- Utilize the meditation technique known as Naikan, which involves reflecting on three questions: “What have I received from __?”, “What have I given to __?”, and “What troubles and difficulty have I caused?”
- Love your body. Appreciate what it means to be human and alive. The human body is not only a miraculous construction, but also a gift.
- Use Visual Cues. The two primary obstacles to gratefulness are forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness. Visual reminders can serve as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude. My best visual reminders are people.
- Watch your Language. Grateful people talk about gifts, blessings, being fortunate and abundance. Focus on the good things others have done for you.
- Go Through the Motions. Grateful motions include smiling, saying thank you, and writing notes of gratitude.
When I easily pull out my credit card to buy Chinese food for my crew, I want to remember the joy of The Red Lobster and how excited I was to pay for one dinner.
So, as we continue to spend time with friends, family, shop and eat (a lot), let’s take a moment to be grateful for what we already have in our lives and give a moment to those that don’t.
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” Marcus Cicero