Confession time: I don’t like writing thank you notes. I am thankful, of course, for the things I receive; and I very much appreciate the people I receive these things from but as a parent with very little extra time in my day, it’s hard to find the energy to sit down, pull out a stack of cards, and think of all I want to say to thank someone for a gift. And because I am of the unfortunate generation that grew up writing things by hand but transitioned to mostly typing on a computer, just the sheer effort of physically writing the words gets tedious a lot earlier than it used to. (I know exactly how absurd this all sounds, by the way. But it’s true!)
Although I don’t like actually writing them, I do very much love the idea behind writing them, because I understand that buying things – and especially making things – for someone else takes time, and effort, and thought; and it’s something that needs recognition and my appreciation! So this year, after dutifully writing down who gave what gift to each of my family members, I’m sitting down to write my Christmas thank yous; and doing so gave me the chance to think about the idea of gratitude and what it means to be thankful every day of the year, not just on Thanksgiving or after a birthday or when someone does something nice for you.
What does it mean to be thankful when it’s an ordinary day, when there’s work to go to and bills to pay and a family to cook and clean for? What does gratitude look like for you when it doesn’t appear that you have anything to be thankful for? How can we start living lives that are thankful even when there’s no extra reason to be?
Well, one way may be to look beyond the obvious. Sure, it’s easy to be thankful when someone shows up at your door with a gift or when someone helps you out; but we can start much smaller than that: by looking at ourselves. We’re not perfect, and not all of us have perfect bodies, but there’s plenty of things about our bodies we can be thankful for right now. Sure, you may have a bad haircut; but if you’re reading this right now, you have eyes (at least one) that can see this and a brain that can understand it. We can be thankful for that! If you can’t see and someone is reading this to you, then you have ears to hear it! We tend to be fixated on the parts of our bodies that we don’t like, but we can celebrate the ones that do. We can be thankful for our educations, our abilities, and the tiniest things that bring us joy.
We can even take it outside ourselves: there’s our families, our relationships, our cities, our communities. And even if those bring you pain, keep breaking it down to the point where you can find one thing to be thankful for about them. Sooner or later, you’ll find something and when you find one thing, you’re bound to find more.
Everyone knows someone who has been so beaten down by what life’s given them that they can’t see any of the good. If you know someone like that, please, please encourage them. Find something that you like about them and let them know about it because it can make all of the difference in the world. And if that someone is you, try – even just the smallest effort is something to celebrate – to find the closest thing to you that you can be thankful for. Even if it’s not joyful, it will help you learn to look for the good around you instead of constantly turning toward the bad. Slowly, slowly, little by little, we’ll begin to adopt the kind of lives that bring joy to others and to ourselves, so much so, that maybe we won’t just save all the giving thanks for holidays. We can really, truly live it all year.
Until next time, be well!
About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.