This is the time of year when we list the things we’re grateful for. Share on social media. Write in a gratitude journal. Make a thankful craft. Brian and I have laughed as we’ve seen all of the #GiveThanks posts this year—they seem to follow a perfect pattern almost as if everyone was given a script to follow each day. I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful for my home. I’m grateful for my friends. I’m grateful for my faith.
And I have to wonder—is this actually helpful?
Is this recitation of the things we know we should be thankful for actually giving us the positive effects that gratitude is supposed to provide?
Scientists, faith leaders, woo gurus, and business coaches all agree that gratitude has enormous benefits. But for it to truly have an impact on our lives, it has to be more meaningful than just repeating a bullet list of what we’re supposed to say. We need to feel it deep within ourselves. And even more importantly, it needs to give us a mindset shift, an emotional boost, elevated thoughts to impact what we believe, not just what we know.
1. Be thankful for everything you LOVE about your life.
Saying you’re grateful for your family and your home is a nice sentiment, and it’s a good start, but it’s more than that. Simply saying that “I’m grateful for my husband and kids” doesn’t actually mean much, and statements like “I’m glad I have a roof over my head” are actually kind of focusing on the negative—what we really mean is “At least I have the bare minimum, I’m not as bad off as some people.”
We spend so much time focusing on what the next step is—the next thing we want, the next level—that we often forget that where we are now used to be the thing we dreamed of. Take a minute to not just be grateful in an “at least” kind of way, but in a “this is amazing” kind of way.
Get specific and detailed about what makes you happy and excited.
I LOVE my home. It was my favorite of all of the houses I looked at. It’s cozy and beautiful. It’s a place all my own where I can create exactly what I want. There is a place for everything and everyone I love. I love hosting friends here. I love all of the furniture and decorations that I have picked out. It was so amazing when we found those two pink chairs for only $7.50 each at Tag’s thrift.
And that’s just ONE of the “bullet points.” And the tiny everyday things are even better to remember.
I love my bright colored cardigans. I love my knives hanging inside my cupboard door. I love my picnic tables. I love the way Arthur jumps up and down when he’s excited. I love the freckles running across Walter’s nose. I love Charlotte’s big hugs when I’m laying her down for bed.
I could go on and on, I’m sure once you get started you could too. Recall the happy memories. Call in the good feelings. THAT is what gratitude is supposed to be.
2. Be thankful for the mundane things.
I recently heard one of my favorite bloggers, Faith Mariah, talk about reframing how we think of our tasks as a get to do list instead of being annoyed at all we have to do.
I get to go grocery shopping today — I am able to put food on the table for my family and this amazing world we live in allows me to go get whatever I need whenever I need it.
I get to change my baby’s diapers all day — I get so many moments throughout the day when I have close one on one time to bond with my baby, look in her eyes, smile, and laugh together.
I get to wash and fold the laundry — look at all these wonderful clothes I have to wear every day, this is one of my favorite shirts, these pants are so comfy, I wore this outfit while doing yard work and making my home a more beautiful place.
I get to read books to my kids and help them brush their teeth and put on pajamas and sing and snuggle together as I put them to bed.
One of my absolute favorite things is doing the dishes — by hand even! I have always loved these types of mundane tasks. I think that enjoying housework and tedious things is a lost art in this world of instant entertainment at our fingertips.
Social media and phone games give our minds the illusion of being busy while our body sits idle, but it’s so much more valuable to let your hands work and let your mind wander.
Hum a song. Reflect on your day. Sift through your thoughts. Process your emotions. (Weeding is some of the best therapy out there!) Let creativity flow. Or even just take some pride in scrubbing that scorched pan until it’s shiny and new again!
3. Be thankful for the hard things.
This is a difficult one, but it also can completely change your life if you practice it regularly. Don’t just be grateful that you made it through. Don’t be grateful that “I may be struggling, but at least it’s not as bad as so-and-so.”
Don’t just be grateful in spite of the challenges. Be grateful BECAUSE of them.
I’m grateful for tantrums, because they give me a chance to pause to listen to my kids and help them through their own hard emotions.
I’m grateful the website I spent years building was destroyed by malware, because it gave me a fresh start.
I’m grateful for the days when everything goes wrong, because it makes me focus on only the most important things.
I’m grateful for the times I can’t do it all, because it reminds me to lean on others.
I’m grateful for hard conversations with Brian because it always makes our relationship even stronger.
I honestly never thought I would get to the point where I could give thanks for what was by far the darkest year of my life, but here we are and I can truly say that I am grateful for where it has led me and who it has made me.
It has given me more strength than I ever thought I could have, it has taught me to communicate what I need, it brought me to a community of incredible people I never knew I needed. Through it I have found tools that have helped me to manage my mental health better than I have in my entire life.
There are so many more things I gained from that year, but most of all it taught me to see all of the hard things a different way.
4. Be thankful for the things you don’t have.
Be glad for all of the things in your life that you wanted, but DIDN’T get.
I’m grateful that I I didn’t get a Master’s degree in accounting, because instead I found other career paths that I never would have considered.
I’m grateful that none of my teenage crushes panned out, because I found my perfect soulmate instead.
I’m grateful that we didn’t move back out of Utah the second Brian graduated, because we have found the most amazing home and neighborhood to raise our kids in.
I’m so glad that I don’t have the things I dreamed of, because where I actually ended up is so much better than I ever could have imagined for myself.
When you see all of your previous unmet goals and unfulfilled dreams as stepping stones to something even greater, you can realize that the things that maybe aren’t currently going the way you hoped or planned are actually setting you up for something amazing.
5. Be thankful for the things you will have.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but it is SO true: your circumstances aren’t what create your feelings, it’s your thoughts and attitudes about your circumstances. Because the thing is, if you aren’t practicing being grateful now, then you still won’t be satisfied when you get everything you ever wanted. You’ll just want the next thing.
Being thankful for your life now AND what is coming next is a much better place to come from than “I’ll be happy when…” Now that you are feeling grateful and excited and happy about your life where you are now, extend that into the future for the things you are working towards.
I’m grateful that my blog is about to take off! I’m grateful that we are creating our dream yard! I’m grateful that my big goals are turning into easy habits! I’m grateful that I am learning to be the best kind of mom! I’m grateful that I am becoming healthy and strong! I’m grateful that Brian and I are going to be able to work together from home on our own creative businesses!
So this year up your gratitude game, and I know it will make your life better!
Share the hard things, the mundane things, or the future things you’re thankful for and tag @finch.hollow on Instagram!