Everybody wants to be happy from now until January 1st. Thanksgiving, Christmas parties, and New Years should be, we are told, the happiest time of the year. It is hard to be happy without first being thankful, which is in fact why we celebrate Thanksgiving before Christmas. No, not really.
Still, gratitude is that one Lego® piece we all need to make the happiness project work. Gratitude is also easier said than done. Like fitness, sometimes we claim we’re thankful but at the end of the day, once we’re tried and challenged, it turns out we are actually not. Here are a few of my favorite tips for growing gratitude:
USE LESS SOCIAL MEDIA
Since the founding of social media there have been numerous studies showing us that it can have the ability to make us feel alone, unrecognized, and dis-included. That spells unhappy. If you feel any of that check your social media usage.
Social media focuses our attention on the lives of others. Gratitude is different. It begins with thinking about our own blessings and that can be hard to do while watching pictures of Tim from college unwrapping a Ferrari for an early Christmas gift; or seeing Maria sample wedding food. If you feel you need to be more thankful for your own blessings, cut back on the social media for a few weeks.
WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU ARE THANKFUL FOR
Writing clarifies and defines our thoughts. We see them more clearly when we write them out. So it is one thing to think that we are thankful or even say we are thankful but another to write it out. If you haven’t written out a thank list this year now would be a great time to do it.
TAKE THE BUS
I mean this literally but also in a metaphorical sense. Ride the bus and you will see the people without a car and sometimes without a home. Taking the bus means taking the route that other materially less-fortunate people need to take. Try an evening with a little less heat or cook with a cheaper cut of beef. Taking the bus occasionally in all these instances helps build a sense of appreciation for what you do have.
The most precious thing we have in this life is time. With enough time we can pretty much anything we want: relationships, careers, toys. That makes time one of the greatest gifts we can give to someone. Take an evening off to ladle soup, hand out sandwiches, make little kids happy, or mentor someone. Volunteering also often surrounds us with beautiful people whether they are ones we volunteer with or the ones we serve. We will learn a lot from them on how to be genuinely grateful for what we have.
REMIND YOURSELF HOW FORTUNATE YOU ARE:
“Remember, what I have someone else is trying to get.”
I have a job, someone is filling out an application with their fingers crossed. I comfortably have my utilities on autopay? Someone is trying to save dimes to keep the heat on. T here is always someone two steps behind me. And no matter how successful I am, I will always be two steps behind someone else and unsatisfied. So just slow down and give thanks.
Or just stop altogether. It’s hard to give thanks on the run or while trying to run errands all weekend. You can’t smell the rose driving 5 over the speed limit. Stop and get out. Really, the reason why you are trying to get things done is because you feel incomplete while gratitude is an act of stopping and recognizing how you are complete.
Whenever I start complaining one of my good friends reminds me of an old Persian proverb, “I used to complain I didn’t have shoes until I saw someone with no feet.” I say that a lot too. Thank you for the feet.
This will be hands down one of most joyful times of the year; if I could just be thankful.