Beyond #blessed – being thankful all year long

“Ok, everyone go around the table and say something you’re thankful for.”

Whether it’s right before you dig into the long-awaited turkey, or as you’re sitting back in your chair, wishing you hadn’t gone in for thirds on the sweet potato casserole, you’ve probably heard this around the Thanksgiving table. And if you’re like me, you’ve probably quickly responded with something like, “Oh yeah, I’m thankful for my family, my friends, and my good health.”

It’s easy to name the big things we’re thankful for and move on to the next Thanksgiving activity.

But what if this year we paused, took a moment to understand what it really means to be thankful, and then tried to cultivate an attitude of thanksgiving and gratitude all year long, not just one day a year?

First things first, let’s define our terms. Webster’s Dictionary defines thankful as being “conscious of the benefits received” and “expressive of thanks.” I love the phrase “conscious of the benefits received,” because I think it gives us a perfect image of what a thankful person is.

To be conscious is to be aware — aware of one’s surroundings, to notice or perceive one’s environment. So based on our definition, being thankful is being aware of the benefits we have received, or put simply, our blessings. Though I’m sure we are all thankful for our family, our friends, our health, etc., I think being conscious of our blessings is about being more specific in recognizing the good in your life.

What are the things that you bring you happiness and joy every single day? Who are the people, and places that you can’t imagine life without? What memories do you look back on and think, “I’m so glad that happened.”

Cultivating an attitude of thanksgiving starts here. It begins with taking the time and intentionality to notice the people around us that we love and appreciate (and might even overlook). It takes stopping our busy routines long enough to acknowledge the things in our life that bless us, that make us smile, that bring joy and hope into our world.

The second part of the definition is “expressing thanks.” Being thankful starts with being conscious of our blessings, but then actually expressing thanks for those things.

What could that look like for you? Perhaps the holiday season is a perfect time for you to tell someone you love how much they mean to you and specific reasons you’re thankful for them. Or to make a list of things you’re thankful for and put it somewhere you’ll see it often.

I’ve noticed that when I’m conscious enough to realize how much I’ve been blessed, it completely transforms my outlook on life. I’m less likely to compare my life to someone’s Instagram feed, and more likely to appreciate what’s right in front of me. I’m less likely to wish for something I don’t have, and more likely to realize how many things I have and appreciate.

Plus, research shows that grateful people are more likely to be physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy. Grateful people are more pleasant to be around (because who likes to be around grumpy complainers?) and even sleep better.

So this year as Thanksgiving rolls around, slow down enough to be conscious of the blessings in your life, and then express thanks for them. When it’s time to share what you’re thankful for, be thoughtful and share sincerely. But when Thanksgiving is over, continue cultivating an attitude of gratitude. I don’t think you’ll ever regret it.