We have all grown up believing that giving thanks is something so special that it deserves special days to recognize it. From Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, birthdays, or Veterans Day, we allow ourselves to feel blessed and express gratitude and love to those around us, the life we lead, and the opportunities and lessons that brought us here. The world is caught up in that magic because we celebrate it as something rare and exceptional. But what if we could create that feeling every day? What's stopping us from celebrating and honoring every moment of this beautiful gift of the present? Why is magic only reserved for special days?
The gift of gratitude was something I embraced during the pandemic. As numbers increased, we were suddenly forced to change our everyday habits. It was no longer Sunday brunch with the girls or Friday fun nights in the city. Limiting social contact and interactions meant identifying the friends, family, and people you could safely interact with and let into your quarantine circle. As we sat with ourselves and focused on the things that were important to us, we had a chance to reflect on the life we had before and the moments we took for granted. All those annoying little habits of friends or co-workers were the things we missed most, because of the uniqueness they brought into our lives.
Cultivate Gratitude as a Lifestyle
Gratitude is different from toxic positivity, which is forcing yourself to have a positive attitude to life. Toxic positivity is about denying the negative experiences that happen to you with platitudes such as "everything happens for a reason" or "positive vibes only." I am not saying these should not inspire you, but they become platitudes when they stop you from dealing with your negative experiences by masking or brushing away the trauma. Gratitude instead asks you to acknowledge what may not be going right in your life while expressing thanks for the things that are helping you get through the day, week, month, year and beyond.
Gratitude is a powerful and effective practice to change your thoughts and resultantly what you manifest. When I experience tough days, as we all do, positive thinking tells me that everything will be okay, even when it doesn't look or feel that way. It doesn't allow me to get lost in fear of the present circumstance. The practice of gratitude lets me say "That presentation did not go as smoothly as I would have liked. I need to work on my transitions. While I'm grateful for the opportunity, I am most grateful that it causes me to grow." A simple way to build gratitude is to list 1 to 3 things, people, or events you are grateful for at the end of every day. It may seem odd at first, but consistently committing to the practice and doing it daily will create a considerable change in your life. Disclaimer, you will develop a positive outlook from practicing gratitude.
Normalize Giving Thanks
Another simple way to begin the practice of gratitude is to simply say "THANK YOU" but with emotion and presence. In a 2016 study, researchers found that Americans say “thank you" unconsciously, BUT without genuinely meaning it. We say "thank you" over 2000 times a year, but we mean it less than 50% of the time. Ask yourself, when you say thanks to the barista or the nice person holding the door, are you present at that moment? Instead, say thank you and acknowledge the person. Being present in expressing gratitude can be conscious texts, messages, and letters to those in your life who you feel grateful for.
Giving thanks is also giving back. Growing up in the church, I saw how people shared their blessings with others. How they would donate to church families in need, and the community. Giving can be done in many ways, from cash, donating your points from membership cards, or cash back on credit cards directly to a charity or even non-monetary donations like your time and skills. I always try to send blessings to someone who is not expecting them because my gratitude for my life allows me to recognize the interconnectivity with everyone else. To be living in a state of ThanksLiving is being grateful to share from the substance you have.
Creating Room through Gratitude
As you open your hand with gratitude, you create more space for new experiences, insights, and abundance of love and light to flow into your life. A hand that signals to the world that it can receive and sustain more of its purpose. A few years ago, I started a holiday giving event I called "Hostile Takeover" where we took care of both parents and kids in shelters. I used the word hostile instead of shelter to change people's perception of temporary housing spaces, and it was a catchy phrase. My friends, family, and acquaintances would donate, and we would adopt an entire shelter with lots of families. I never wanted to go into a shelter and adopt 1 or 2 families, as I knew for everyone I adopted, there were others there in worse situations.
Hostile Takeover has created room by expanding my capacity to give and love. It reminded me of my blessings and how far I have come. Through giving, I am reminded of everything I have to be thankful for and all of the life experiences that have led me to a place where I can give back. Similarly, being a part of or hearing about Hostile Takeover expanded my friends and family's capacity to give, heal and help. Our actions create ripple effects beyond the people we directly give to. Hostile Takeover is a powerful reminder of gratitude and how we can make space in our lives. Giving allows you to receive Greater Than you ever imagined so that you can further share that abundance with others.
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