Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. Now, I know Christmas, Easter, Passover, etc., all have more spiritual significance, but let's face it: Thanksgiving has all the excellent food! My brother, Paul, loves Thanksgiving dinner so much that he requests it every year for his birthday dinner!
On a serious note, though, I love Thanksgiving because, for the entire month of November leading up to the holiday, people generally make more of an effort to be positive. They start posting daily messages of what they're thankful for on social media.
November is the month when you end your call with a customer service rep by saying, "Thank you! Have a great rest of your day, and Happy Holidays!"
The holidays are the time of year people become more considerate of others. I have seen more doors held open for others by someone with a smile on their face at this time of year than at any other. Why is this? I believe it is partially because, in November, we begin to shift our focus and emphasis toward gratitude.
Dr. Caroline Leaf, a cognitive neuroscientist with a Ph.D. in Communication Pathology specializing in Neuropsychology, says gratitude causes positive changes to your brain and your body. Not only is gratitude crucial for success in life, but it also increases our longevity, our ability to use our imagination, and our ability to problem-solve.
I have personally experienced the life-saving benefits of being thankful in my own life. In moments of deep darkness and great sorrow, I forced myself to be grateful. There's a saying, "Count your blessings one by one," that I took literally during those seasons. I got a photo box, a bunch of lined index cards, and some new pens, and I created a "blessings box."
I set aside time each day to write down something for which I was thankful on a notecard. I would write a set number of cards every day, each with only one item per card, to force myself to spend time focusing on reasons I had to be grateful. I numbered them in the corner and dated them.
I started each card like this, "I am so thankful to..." or "I am so very grateful for..." and then I would list whoever or whatever came to my mind. Sometimes, I would write it as a mini prayer and take that time to thank the Blessor for His blessings. There were times when I realized I had already written a card expressing gratitude for that person or thing previously, but it didn't matter. The point was to focus on my blessings.
When I was feeling depressed, hopeless, fearful, anxious, lonely, or entitled, I would take the blessings box and dump the cards all over the floor. Then I would sit there and read each one until my focus shifted, and life became bearable - even enjoyable! - again.
I start a new batch of index cards in each new season and I restart the number at 1 again so that it never becomes about how many cards I have filled out, but rather about how many blessings I've been privileged to enjoy.
What would happen in your life if you chose to spend ten or fifteen minutes each day writing down things for which you’re thankful? Who would you become after six months or a year of intentional gratitude?