I guess I should first say Happy Thanksgiving. That’s what we do on this day, right? That’s the purpose. Some of us even join hands as we sit around the table and, one by one, declare those things for which we are grateful. That’s nice. And for many these days, it’s a very challenging exercise. One day of organized gratitude out of the entire year and yet, some still struggle.
This is a day when families and friends gather together and pretend that no one knows that dad is an alcoholic and mom takes pills…lots and lots of pills. We won’t talk about 19 year-old Sarah’s second pregnancy out-of-wedlock or your sister Megan’s ongoing affair with a married man. We certainly can’t discuss Uncle Jake’s problem with cocaine and his related job loss or Aunt Sharon’s black eye and fat lip that makeup won’t hide. No…none of that. No thoughts of the maxed-out charge cards and the car that will soon need a new transmission. Don’t worry about that lump you found in your breast two days ago or the baby’s failure to meet normal growth benchmarks. Let’s forget the problems of our real lives for a moment and express thanks for what we have. And that’s exactly how it should be!
I’m no happiness guru and I’ve had my share of sadness, failures and loss. But I have discovered something important that truly works for me and for others. Here’s my secret.
Stop complaining! Just stop right now! It does absolutely nothing to assist the situation and the people to whom you are complaining have their own problems that may be much greater than yours anyway. Do what you can and need to do, if anything, to improve your circumstances but don’t complain about them.
Instead, express more gratitude! Be more thankful regardless of the crap that life is currently dishing out. That’s the trick of it, you see; Recognizing those things for which you should be thankful regardless of those things that are providing challenges in your life at the moment. Be thankful and outwardly express gratitude. I’m not talking about pretending to be thankful. I’m talking about truly understanding your good fortune in the many areas that only you can identify. This, of course, will mean that you will need to ignore your challenges. Good!
If you are one of those who has established a long-term pattern of complaining, your self-talk is likely to have convinced you how hard you have it and how life sucks. You regularly ask yourself, “Why Me” or “Why Now” when things go wrong, burying yourself in dark thoughts and negativity
Every morning, I take my buddy, Carmine, to the dog beach here in Cancun. Carmine gets to wander around smelling, peeing, chasing Iguanas and crabs, rolling in the sand, barking at floating logs, meeting other dogs and generally enjoying his doggy life. This is also the time I use to express my gratitude. It’s become a habit. I stand on the beach and look out onto the water while I spontaneously say my thanks. As a non-religious man (please, don’t try to convert me or save me. I’m good, thanks), I believe I am simply speaking to the universe. It’s an exercise that has become a habit each morning. I speak out-loud so I can hear the sound of my voice. I find that I regularly repeat the same gratitude for my wonderful wife, a great son, surviving some significant health issues, having great friends and a chance to regularly write for a large, internatioinal publication and on and on and on. Sometimes, I become more philosophical and express thanks for the earth, our universe, my humble existence, having plenty of food and water and such things. I wander down the beach with Carmine close by, babbling my thanks until I feel like I’m done.
Regardless of what my current challenges may be, they always seem tiny in comparison to the good stuff in my life. But here’s the bigger picture and please bear with me on this. I have found that by focusing on those things for which I am grateful, rather than my challenges, the universe shifts and begins to deliver more of the good stuff for me. The more I say thanks, the more good stuff comes my direction.
Regularly expressing gratitude doesn’t mean you will win the lottery. It may mean that the stream of challenges subsides and the weight of life lifts to a more manageable level. At the very least, your outlook on life will dramatically change and you’ll attract more positive things into your life. No one wants to hang around a complainer!
I hope you enjoy this Day of Thanks and perhaps it will become the beginning of a new life of gratitude.
Oh, and I’m damned glad I live in Cancun. You know, you can live anywhere on the planet that you wish. Just don’t let fear be the thief that steals the life you could have! Be brave and be grateful.