I’m sure many of you are reading thankfulness posts left and right, or maybe some of your friends have taken over their Facebook with a status claiming something they are thankful for every day this month. While I appreciate thankfulness (and totally think we should all be more grateful for what we have), I have to say that the whole “thankful November” thing has grown a little trite for me. I guess anything mainstream tends to do that for me.
But in all honesty, it just seems kind of forced and fake for most people. I thought of making some Pinterest-inspired but pathetic-in-real-life attempt at a thankful banner of sorts for my home. But then November 6th rolled around and I remembered I have a real life and I don’t have time for that. Personally, when anything is forced upon me, such as “be thankful for the month of November,” it just becomes meaningless to me. It has to really be cultivated and nourished in me for me to feel it.
Why Are We Ungrateful?
That being said, I gave some real thought as to why we are naturally so ungrateful. We take the month or maybe just the day of Thanksgiving in November to claim all we are thankful for.
But why don’t we do this daily? Why is thankfulness not a habit we cultivate in everyday life and only around this certain time of year?
I have a few thoughts…
1. We believe things should always be better, so we look onto things without gratitude.
Is this you?
My diet can be so much better, so therefore, everything I eat isn’t good enough.
I see so many nice clothes in stores or on my imaginary Pinterest wardrobe. That sweater I got last Christmas is just not that great.
I want this to be different from it is, so I can’t appreciate this for what it is currently.
In a sense, this is the grass is always greener on the other side tendency. We know things have to be better at a different time. So right now just doesn’t measure up. Grateful for today? Not a chance.
2. We’re surrounded by complainers (ourselves one of them).
People love to complain. It doesn’t matter what about. We just love misery. Some more than others, that’s for sure. Lately, I’ve been finding myself particularly more negative because I feel I’m surrounded by a new set of complainers that weren’t there before. No, I can’t blame them for my own ungratefulness, but being surrounded by negativity day after day does not help.
And the complainer in us doesn’t help either. We all complain to a certain extent, even if it’s not verbalized. I find myself complaining in my head mentally much too often.
Lately, I am plagued with feelings of ungratefulness for the lack of time I have. I know I have this lack of time, and so does everyone around me. I’ve stopped talking about it all the time, but in my head, I still know I’m resentful for the time I wish I had, which only makes me ungrateful for the time I do have.
3. Our culture encourages “not enough.”
We live in the day an age of be more, have more, do more.
Be a better mother. Have a better job. Do a better job at running. Have nicer things. Volunteer more.
Whatever it is, there is a message somewhere that, whether implied or not, can make us feel like we, our jobs, our families, our circumstances are never enough. And culture just keeps on going with that message to fuel sales, profits, or whatever it is that company’s are after.
How to Shift Your Mindset
But enough about that! How do we change from our naturally ungrateful state to a soul that lingers on all the good in our lives?
1. Be Grateful Now.
I’m not talking about making some cop-out “make a list of all the things you are grateful for” list every day. Sorry – I’ve tried that and it didn’t work for me. I’m talking about every moment you have in every day – that is where gratefulness (or anything you want) lives.
It does not happen overnight or in big sweeping magically appearing chunks. You don’t suddenly wake up like the Grinch with a heart three sizes bigger.
It does happen in small moments, though. We have the chance to be grateful now. Stop reserving gratefulness for “some other time,” when things are “just right.” (tweet this). Choose to be grateful in each moment.
2. Be Flexible.
#1 is never going to work out if you don’t also choose to be flexible about what you’re grateful for.
Personal Example: I am often over-the-top grateful for a good workout in the morning. But that hasn’t been happening for me lately so I’ve been working out at night after work.
Last week, I worked out 3 times in the afternoon, two of which were good solid runs. However, I looked back on the week and thought “all my workouts were terrible – it was like I didn’t even workout at all!”
All I have to say about that is what a waste of my life! I have had to mentally shift my expectations about working out to be more flexible. A workout in the afternoon? Yes, that has to be acceptable now. Not even just acceptable but downright good!
Sometimes you have to adjust your expectations and become a little more flexible so that you can still claim gratitude about certain areas of your life.
3. Replace Negative with Positive.
Even if you manage to weed out the complaining and ungrateful attitude that you may have sometimes, it has to be replaced with someone else or your mind will quickly turn back to being ungrateful.
Some practical ways to do this are…
- Read scripture & focus on prayer. Sometimes a good verse can knock all the doubts I have about my current state like nothing else. And when things aren’t going right, instead of groaning about it at my pity party for one, I take it to the One who knows all my troubles & understands.
- Keep a collection of positive quotes, affirmations, & sayings. I love to remind myself of smart quotes and good sayings. I keep a Pinterest board of these to refer to when I’m in a funk or need a lift.
- Replace lies with the truth. This one is tough, but essential. The negative will never go away if you let it stay there in the form of a lie. What do you believe that just isn’t true? By making a list of thoughts that you typically go to in frustration (like things will never be right, or I will never look like how I want to) you can see the negative that you are keeping around. Combat those lies with truth, aiming to see the situation realistically instead of through feelings.
Too much of life can get bogged down by the what-we-don’t-haves. the what-we-wish-was-differents, and useless thoughts. I know gratefulness is not something I do perfectly, or even well at times. But it’s something that I consciously want to strive toward every day.
I have so much to be thankful for. It’s just a matter of cultivating that gratefulness in my life each and every day.
Questions for You:
- What keeps you ungrateful?
- What are you celebrating this week: thankfulness, time with family, a vacation?