This Thanksgiving, I’m Grateful to Feel Grateful

This Thanksgiving, I’m Grateful to Feel Grateful

There are so many proven benefits to practicing gratitude and my question is this: Why do many people only do this once a year?

I’m not American but I do love Thanksgiving. One thing I love about the holiday is the focus on gratitude.  Many studies show benefits to practicing gratitude, including this from the journal Motivation & Emotion, which finds gratitude journaling boosts feelings of happiness and offers a framework for reflection, which in turn leads to personal growth and even improvements in sleep and lower anxiety levels.

Whether written, expressed to yourself, or expressed to others, there are so many proven benefits to practicing gratitude, and my question is this: Why do many people only do this once a year?

One reason is that it can be tough to find gratitude unless you look for it, especially when we have all had tough times in the last year. However, while it’s easy to focus on everything that’s wrong during times of hardship, challenges can also provide perspective and help you learn to be grateful for small things.

For example, I’ve struggled with a chronic skin condition, and while it’s easy for me to feel overrun by this challenge, I also find that I can be grateful for every day without itching or a rash. And I’m grateful that I’ve learned how to manage my condition: When I feel it start, I manage to suppress it by taking extra good care of myself. So that is a huge thing to be grateful for! I am also grateful for the companionship of my little dog Bowie. I wasn’t sure I was ready for a new dog after my beloved dog, Douglas, passed away last year, but it’s been such a blessing to experience new beginnings with a furry and mischievous little friend.

I’ve had a similar experience of challenge and gratitude with COVID. On one hand, it’s so hard to get out of bed every day knowing the toll the pandemic has taken on our world, in terms of lives lost, economic hardship and the strain on our collective mental health. But beneath the surface, I’ve found things to be grateful for. I’ve seen people around me rally together, new friendships formed because of the way the world now works, and, against all odds, what I’ve seen gives me a lot of hope for the future.

Hope, because I know from experience that if I manage to integrate the challenges of this year into my story going forward, I will be a stronger and better person for it. Hope, because I can see the silver linings and unexpectedly positive experiences that the last year has brought me, for example, with the wide acceptance of remote work, I’ve been able to dedicate more hours to my passion for writing, which has opened up new opportunities, given me new insights, and taught me new things about myself.

In the midst of a pandemic, I have found new things to love about myself and new things to work on. More than anything, I am grateful that this year, I have learned to appreciate myself again. Whatever the next year holds, for the first time in many years, I find myself actually looking forward to it – to the challenges that 2022 will certainly bring, and to the things I will be able to be grateful for next Thanksgiving.