The Gift of Gratitude: Here Are 4 Reasons Why You Should Be Grateful for a Good Life by Dannie De Novo
Here we are again – the holiday season. I have to be completely honest with you, I’ve never been a fan of this time of year until recently. Even when my brother and I were young, no one ever seemed to be in a very good mood. There is so much pressure to enjoy the holidays and this time of year has a way of magnifying one’s sense of lack and sadness, if one lets it.
And, in the past, I let it. Every year I started internalizing everyone else’s misery before I even had a slice of pumpkin pie. Every year I braced for impact long before the first Christmas carol was heard on the radio.
I didn’t really understand the full effects of this until one Thanksgiving when we sat down to eat at my grandmother’s house. My dad, who I actually think liked the holidays – or at least like being with my brother and I on the holidays – said something before someone forcefully mumbled grace. He said, “This year, why don’t we go around the table and everyone can say something for which he or she is thankful?”
My face lit up from across the room at the kids table. I loved that idea. As I tried to come up with a good one for my turn, I glanced across the room to see who else was excited. But all I saw were looks of annoyance and disgust. And just as my dad was about to start, my grandmother told him to shut up. Yes, she said those words … shut up. And it did not appear that anyone else wanted to do it either. It broke my heart to see my dad’s smile fade away. He shot me a look as if to say, “Maybe next year,” and everyone started to eat.
But, at that point, I was no longer hungry. This episode did not sit well with me. I was only a kid, and yet, I had so much to be grateful for. Why didn’t everyone else feel the same way? Why didn’t they want to share their gratitude?
When we got home, I asked my dad if he had a good day. He said, “Yes. I love Thanksgiving. Everyone always wants to hurry over it to get to Christmas, but I think it’s a great day. I like looking back on the year and being thankful for what went well.”
What went well? You mean someone was focused on the good instead of the bad? My dad took the time each year to be grateful for the good things in his life, and until that day, I had no idea. My father left a huge impression on me that cold November night. (Parents, your children are watching!) At that moment, I vowed each year to spend the holiday season thinking about the good in my life.
As an adult, I now better understand why it is hard for people to be grateful at times. Life can really weigh on you if you allow the bad to take center stage. For one, I really miss my dad now that he is gone. But, in his honor, I force myself to come back to my promise to focus on the good – to look back at another year of my precious life and point out to myself all of the amazing things that have happened. And to be grateful for all of those amazing things. And to be sure to teach my daughter to do the same.
When I talk about gratitude, people’s eyes tend to glaze over. And it isn’t because they aren’t grateful on some level. I think we have been taught to look at gratitude incorrectly. When we think about gratitude, we start down a thought path that goes something like this: I am thankful for my home, that I have food to eat, that I have a job (even if it is a sucky one), that I am healthy and that nothing horribly bad happened this year. It makes us, indirectly, start thinking about what is lacking in our lives. We absolutely should be thankful that we are clothed and warm and fed and have access to schools and medicine and all of our necessities. But the purpose of being grateful isn’t to compare what we have versus what we wish we really had.
Truthfully, we are supposed to be grateful for the fact that we are here at all and that we have the ability to create whatever it is we want in life. From good, only more good can come. And in following that line of thought, this is why this year (and all year long) I would like you to consider being grateful for all that goodness. Here are four reasons why you should be grateful for the good in life:
- Gratitude shifts our thinking to the present moment. Gratitude allows us to celebrate what we have now and what we have accomplished. It also allows us to refocus our energy on our dreams and goals. And, if it is true that what we think we become, then it makes sense to center our thoughts about the good in life – both present and future.
- Gratitude shines a light on the positive in our lives – on the positive people, on the positive results, on other positive emotions. A sense of gratitude leads to a sense of love. Love is the purest emotion. Anything is possible with love. I mean, is there anything that is more encapsulating of the good in life than love?
- When we are appreciative, we are focused on the good in life, not on the lack or worry or scarcity. Again, we are living in the present moment and looking at life with a sense of wonder and abundance – not from a sense of fear.
- Gratitude gives us a sense of how far we have come in our journey. There is a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that reads: “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” I have come a long way. You have come a long way. Our journey deserves its recognition. Our growth depends on it. A lot of good things have come from your journey thus far.
So, in the spirit of Ralph Waldo and in the honor of someone you love (like I love my dad), I encourage you to cultivate the habit of being grateful and then teach it to your children and loved ones. It is easy enough to do. Now is an excellent time to start. Wishing you much love, abundance and feelings of gratitude as we enter this year’s holiday season. I hope that this year you choose to find the good in life.