Gratitude All Year Long
by Nirmala Raniga
The traditional picture of Thanksgiving often includes family and friends sitting around well-decorated tables, with delicious feasts set before them, each very often with a perfectly prepared turkey. During this annual holiday, conversation often turns to recounting all the people, places, and events we are thankful for throughout the past year. Such conversations provide opportunities for self-reflection and a way to express gratitude for all the wonderful gifts life has to offer.
Nostalgia is indeed an important component of a healthy life and bright outlook. In fact, according to a 2013 article in Psychology Today by Dr. Art Markman, “Nostalgia makes people feel more socially connected to others. This social connection boosts people’s positive feelings about themselves. That increase in self-esteem then increases feelings of optimism.”
While particularly bright during the Thanksgiving season, these warm feelings can continue throughout the year. Recalling times of closeness with others or individual successes can help us not only look upon our lives with gratitude, but also help us create a blueprint for growth. For instance, on Thanksgiving, we may recall with appreciation things we have achieved in our careers or relationships. Such proven successes can help foster feelings of confidence as well as gratitude for the support system we have as we face fresh challenges or reach for new goals in our lives.
When we are involved in our daily lives, away from the rest and relaxation of the holidays, we can become distracted by our regular routines and forget who we truly are and what we are thankful for. However, we can develop a practice that will help us build a foundation of gratitude that Thanksgiving often fosters. One way we can do this is to create a gratitude journal. Each day, we can write down at least three things we are grateful for in our lives. When we approach our lives with a sense of appreciation each day, our egos step out of the way, and we become more in tune with the present and the many rich opportunities it presents. A daily statement of all we are grateful for can also help us become motivated, connect more deeply with our hopes and dreams, and set goals that move us from our comfort zones toward those things that may have before seemed impossible to us.
Another way we can practice appreciation is by living the Law of Giving and Receiving. According to Dr. Deepak Chopra’s book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, we practice this law each Monday and do so by offering a gift to everyone we encounter. Those gifts can take any form, for example, we can lend an ear to a friend in need or offer an encouraging word to a colleague. The other part of this law entails our being gracious and appreciative receivers. So often, we can give, but we have difficulty taking a gift or a compliment. Through the practice of this law, we learn how receiving is a form of generosity, enabling someone else to also feel good about sharing with others.
Each moment of every day is completely unlike any other, and we can experience the beauty of every moment by spending time in Nature. Connecting with Nature’s bounty reveals to us how effortlessly the Universe offers its gifts, asking nothing in return. The great Sufi poet, Hafiz, wrote of the selflessness of the Universe, “And still, after all this time the Sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that. It lights up the whole sky.” By spending time in Nature, we see the Universe in all its wondrous disguises, sharing selflessly the beauty of the sky, ocean, flora, and fauna. When we witness Nature, we cannot help but feel gratitude and love.
As we reflect during the Thanksgiving season, let us also take with us its lessons of gratitude as we move forward in our lives, giving generously and expressing appreciation for all that we receive. In this way, we will begin to understand that the Universe is always there, supporting us in everything we do, and we can experience the future with optimism and great joy.