The season for thankfulness is upon us, but what exactly does that mean? And, why, pray tell, is there a season for this at all? Is there not equal opportunity for gratefulness all twelve months of the year?
Annually, as Thanksgiving approaches, our minds are drawn to reflect upon the bounty in our lives. We begin to see the daily thankfulness posts on social media, and when asked to share what we are thankful for, we invariably trot out the big three: family, health, and employment.
While these are surely things to be thankful for, and the sentiments are, no doubt, genuine, they often feel trite, in the same vein as an automatic response of “fine” when asked how we are. In truth, if we paused to really reflect upon the many ways in which we are fortunate, each day would bring countless small things for which to be thankful.
In recent years, we have seen the practice of mindfulness take root and grow in our communities. Originally derived from Buddhist meditation practices, mindfulness is defined by Psychology Today as “a state of active, open attention on the present…Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”
A companion to this way of living is to be cognizant of, and thankful for, the daily goodness, delivered in tiny doses, that we often take for granted. Studies have shown that focusing on the positives in life offers what is known as a “pattern interrupt,” or a way to reboot our brains from becoming bogged down in everything that may be going wrong.
In her book, “Instant Happy,” ad executive turned self-help author, Karen Salmansohn says, “Let’s say an event happens which puts you in a grumpy mood. If you’re not careful, your negative thoughts about this one solo circumstance can create a downward spiral, where you quickly go from merely thinking “This one thing sucks,” to “My whole day sucks,” to “My whole life sucks,” to “The world sucks,” to “Distant galaxies suck.” Basically, without a pattern interrupt, a sad person can get grumpier, and an angry person can get crankier!”
Luckily, changing the course of our thinking is as easy as choosing instead to interrupt the pattern by focusing on the positives. One easy way to not only focus on each day’s small joys, but to create a pattern of gratefulness is to keep a “gratefulness journal.”
This type of journal is a daily meditation upon those things for which we can give thanks. It can either be written in each morning, creating an intention, or at the close of each day, capturing a reflection. It is a way to actively concentrate on creating a more optimistic, grateful outlook on life.
Salmansohn has created such a book, as a companion to “Instant Happy.” Titled, “Instant Happy Journal: 365 Days of Inspiration, Gratitude, and Joy,” its pages are filled with motivational quotes and thought-provoking questions designed to “inspire you to reflect and focus on where the most joy can be found,” as well as ample blank space to record your own musings as inspiration hits.
In a world where there are so many tragedies hitting us daily via our television screens, computers, and newspapers, having a place to reflect on all of life’s positives can be an invaluable tool in remaining in a grateful frame of mind, focusing on the small picture when the big picture becomes too overwhelming.
As Paulo Coelho said, in a quote that just so happens to be included in the book, “You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one. Each day is a different one, each day brings a miracle of its own. It’s just a matter of paying attention to this miracle.”
Edie Crabtree is an avid reader and the mother of three active boys. She can be reached at [email protected]