When times are hard, if we are sick, have lost a partner, job, or home, then it’s not always easy to be thankful. Yet those can actually be the very best times to give thanks – for the things we do have, not those we don’t have. Rather than bemoaning that we have lost our health we can be grateful for the birds singing outside or the sun shining in the window; rather than being jealous of someone who has a job while we don’t, we can be grateful for the free time to spend with ourselves or a loved one.
For instance, take a moment right now to appreciate the chair you are sitting on as you read this. Just consider what went into the making of this chair: the wood, cotton, wool or other fibers, the trees and plants that were made into these materials, the earth that grew the trees, the rain and sun, the animals that were involved, the people who prepared the materials, the factory where the chair was made, the designer and carpenter and seamstress, the shop where you bought it—all this just so you could be sitting here now.
Or think of your body and all the different organs and functions and systems that sustain your life, such as your heart, your digestion, or your immune system that protects you from illness. Or the food that nourishes you and where it came from and all the people and plants and weather and transport that were needed to get that food on your table.
You can apply this to everything as nothing is unrelated or disconnected, every single thing is a part of everything else and all are needed to make a whole. It’s so huge; there is no beginning place. There’s just an endless stream of connectedness that has come together to enable you to be here right now, in this moment, reading this, sitting on your chair. And you still don’t think you have anything to feel grateful for or worth appreciating?
Appreciation must also include you. This is often the hardest part, as it’s so easy to dismiss, belittle, ignore, or be embarrassed by ourselves. Can you stand naked in front of a mirror and say thank you? Can you feel a warmth and gratitude for your body that sustains you, for the breath that gives you life? Making friend with and deeply appreciating yourself is vital, as your relationship with yourself is the longest and closest relationship you will ever have. If you can’t appreciate yourself, then how can you appreciate anyone else?
We invite you to develop an ongoing relationship with gratitude by making a list of things to “remember to appreciate.” You can do this hourly, daily, weekly, finding different things to appreciate each time. Anything can go on that list: each other, toenails, trees, sunshine, the washing machine, walking, hot water, grapefruit, flannel sheets…
What’s on your list? As Thanksgiving is here, let’s all take some time to say thank you for those things we usually ignore. Say “Thank you!” out loud over and over. We can never have enough gratitude, let it fill every moment, every thought and every feeling. Experiencing gratitude is totally transforming.