How to Keep Thanksgiving

give thanks-candleA perfect picture of Thanksgiving is sitting at my parent’s large dining room table, beautifully decorated with an autumn tablecloth, centerpiece, nice plates, glasses and silverware, surrounded by wonderful family and friends.

I was in this type of scene a few nights ago, however it wasn’t a Thanksgiving dinner, but rather a birthday celebration. My mother still enjoys gathering her five children and their spouses home for a feast three or four times a year to celebrate birthdays. Lots of laughter is heard while we enjoy each other’s company. This is a happy table, yet I came to it feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. I tried to mask the weight of my daily tasks and worries about Mark’s health. When the conversation turned to past vacations my siblings had taken and the possibilities of future trips, I forgot all my many blessings and had to leave the table. Instead of feeling joyful for their experiences, distress set in. I was no longer focused on how lucky I am to have all my siblings live close by and both my parents still alive. For a moment, I forgot how fortunate I am for the love and support we all share with one another. Unfortunately my thoughts turned to all the places I’ve never been nor could possibly go to. I wasn’t living in thanksgiving, yet I know I’m happiest when I do.

Thanksgiving is more than the annual national holiday which commemorates a harvest festival. It is an expression of gratitude, especially to God. I appreciate this time of year which reminds us the importance of giving thanks, however, every day should be a day of thanksgiving. But it’s hard to give thanks in all things.

Life with Mark is a happy one, largely because he knows how to keep thanksgiving. He appreciates everything, including his adversities. He is cheerful and content and loves to bring joy to others. However, he has reason to be bitter, resentful or has cause for deep sadness due to loss of abilities, a beloved career and painful health issues. I know I am lucky to be a caregiver to one who has such a grateful heart. I know many caregivers who are not as fortunate. Three of my favorite ways he shows his appreciation daily are:

Says “Thank You” Often — Two simple words, yet they are so powerful! Hearing those words is a great payment for the care or deed that is done. Joy and appreciation is felt when I hear those words and it makes my efforts worthwhile.

Writes Thank You Notes — Letters of appreciation are a keepsake and tangible evidence of gratitude for what has been given or done. I have hundreds of such notes written on regular lined paper in three ring binders, which I treasure.

Compliments — He notices the work that goes into a good meal and lets me know how much he enjoyed it. He tells me when he thinks I look nice or likes my haircut or outfit. He is constantly looking for and stating the positive.

I’ve learned from Mark that expressing appreciation brings happiness not only to yourself, but those around you. It also lessens stress and anger, which makes you a healthier person. When we focus on our blessings, we see more blessings because our attention has been turned in a positive direction.

Recently in one of my writing groups we were given a blank piece of paper to write as many positive characteristics about ourselves in five minutes. The goal was to fill the page. I enjoyed the assignment and kept it to read when I’m feeling low.

thanksgivingdailyfinishLikewise, making a gratitude list to read when you’re feeling like you’ve missed out in life, maybe another good idea. Some general ideas to help you get started:

  • People
  • Physical abilities
  • Material possessions
  • Spiritual gifts
  • Nature
  • Things about today
  • Places on earth
  • Modern-day inventions
  • Foods you are grateful for.

How long can you make your list?

How would your life improve if you lived in thanksgiving daily?

How to Live in Thanksgiving Daily

Give-Thanks2I’ve noticed people who have a gratitude attitude are the happiest kind of people in the world. It’s a quality which makes them more likable and at peace with themselves. Think about a happy person you know. I’d be willing to bet they are grateful for what they have, look for the best in all circumstances and are a joy to be around. They tend to make others feel better about themselves. Where there is an abundance of gratitude, there is happiness.

Now, think about an unhappy person. Are they resentful and bitter because life didn’t turn out the way they thought it should? You might hear them say something like, “If only I were smarter, had a new car, a college degree or a different job, spouse or parent, then I could be happy.” There are many good reasons for us not to be happy and it’s easy to blame our unhappiness on the things we lack in life. The more we focus on the things we don’t have, the more unhappy and more resentful we become. The lack of gratitude can make us miserable. I know from my own experience I am much happier when I appreciate what I do have rather than concentrating on what I don’t have.

My best example of someone who lives in thanksgiving daily is my husband, Mark. I don’t know of another person who is more grateful, happy and gives more joy to others. I also don’t know anyone who has more reason to be bitter, resentful, or has more cause for deep sadness due to loss of abilities, a beloved career and painful health issues. I know I am lucky to be a caregiver to one who has such a grateful heart. I know many caregivers who are not as fortunate. The inability to appreciate others causes criticism of efforts and does not allow one to acknowledge another’s contributions. My life with Mark is a happy one, largely because he lives in thanksgiving daily. Three ways he shows his appreciation are:

Says “Thank You” Often — Two simple words, yet they are so powerful! Hearing those words is a great payment for the care or deed that is done. Joy and appreciation is felt when I hear those words and it makes my efforts worthwhile.

Writes Thank You Notes — Letters of appreciation are a keepsake and tangible evidence of gratitude for what has been given or done. I have hundreds of such notes written on regular lined paper in three ring binders, which I treasure.

Compliments — He notices the work that goes into a good meal and lets me know how much he enjoyed it. He tells me when he thinks I look nice or likes my haircut or outfit. He is constantly looking for and stating the positive.

I’ve learned from Mark that expressing appreciation brings happiness not only to yourself, but those you are grateful for. It also lessens stress and anger, which makes you a healthier person. When we focus on our blessings, we see more blessings because our attention has been turned in a positive direction.

thanksgivingdailyfinishTry making a gratitude list and read it when you’re sad and feeling ungrateful. Some general ideas to help you get started:

  • List people
  • Physical abilities
  • Material possessions
  • Spiritual gifts
  • Nature
  • Things about today
  • Places on earth
  • Modern-day inventions
  • Foods you are grateful for.

How long can you make your list?

How would your life improve if you lived in thanksgiving daily?