I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time just being still long enough to be thankful.
To deliberately take the time to look around at all that is good (even during these tough, divisive times) not just in my own life, but in everything — things like nature, the sound of my granddaughters’ laughter, a friend’s call or text, a cat’s purr, a cool breeze and my husband’s smile.
It is so very easy to just think about what the next goal is, and sadly, far too easy to think about what the next thing to have is. Acquiring, earning, we are always working toward something it seems, rather than letting go and just being where we are, in that moment and being content.
I have come to realize that being content is a lot different from being happy. Nobody is going to be happy all the time and people who pretend to have constant happiness are doing just that – pretending. But contentment, well, I believe that comes from somewhere else, somewhere deep inside and it isn’t based on anything temporal.
I do know that those who seem genuinely content exude something that attracts others like bees to honey. You can sense the peace and you want to soak up some of what they have.
I don’t envy much, not like I used to when I was younger. Possessions mean less to me the older I get. I am to the place now where I want to own less, not more. Sometimes the sheer weight of the things that I’ve accumulated over the years feels like an anchor around my neck.
I am learning more and more not to compare myself to others, but instead to bloom where I am planted, using the tools that I have to try to make life a little better for those around me as well as for myself.
I read an opinion piece in Huffpost magazine a few Thanksgivings ago that has stuck with me. Of course, it was a holiday piece, talking about it being the time of year when we tend to think most about all the special things and people in our lives and express our gratitude for them.
The author expressed a desire to hold onto the thankful, joyful feelings of the season all year long and suggested developing an “attitude of gratitude,” which is also the title of a book by New York Times bestselling author Lewis Howes.
I haven’t read it, yet, but it’s on my list.
The book talks about cultivating a thankful mindset, making it a conscious habit to express thankfulness and appreciation; to God, to your friends and family and in all parts of your life.
And it occurred to me that making that conscious effort requires one to think about each part of their life, really take the time to think about all the things that make up their world, both the big and the small.
“If you concentrate on what you have, you’ll always have more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you’ll never have enough,” according to a quote from the book. That is so true, cataloging all you have in your mind and/or on paper is really eye-opening.
Even thinking of all those I’ve lost, though it makes me sad, also makes me grateful for having known and loved them.
The author also recommends starting a gratitude journal, making a note every evening of the things you are most grateful for, proud of and excited about.
Writing down those things really brings it all into focus and leaves a written record for you, and others later on, to look back on.
I think it’s also good to tell those we love, often, how much they mean to us and how grateful we are for them.
Everyone loves to be acknowledged, to feel noticed and appreciated. Never underestimate how much expressing gratitude for things big and small can mean to someone. It can change someone’s whole day for the better.
And Lord knows, we can all use a lift of spirit.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for The Madison County Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.