There’s a big difference between saying the words thank you and the state of being thankful. Thank you in many situations has become obligatory and meaningless. We slap thank you on the end of an email or mumble it under our breath as the barista hands us our coffee. Thank you. It’s what we say when someone holds the door open or we receive a gift on our birthday. Saying thank you means nothing without feeling behind it. Life could be better if we allow ourselves to truly feel thankful more often.
Saying thank you is easy, but feeling thankful takes practice. With all of the distractions and demands on our time, feeling truly thankful can be as difficult as getting into shape. Make no mistake, the ability to be thankful, appreciative, and gracious can actually be strengthened just like our physical muscles. In order to get the benefit, be prepared to put in some practice time.
Here’s a simple method to achieve feeling more thankful each day: Every time you say or hear someone say, thank you, think of something to be thankful for. Let the words thank you be a cue to remind you how lucky you are at this moment. Consider your health, your friends, family or home. Appreciate the air you breathe or the weather outside. Become grateful for what’s good in your life as well as what’s not. A bad day can be averted by taking these brief moments to experience gratitude. Even if the present moment contains pain and suffering, feeling gratitude may be a first step toward defusing the problem.
Engaging in a gratitude practice plays both the short and the long game. In the short term, you engender good will by emitting genuine good feelings. In the long run, gratitude creates a state of mind that can help you through the toughest of times. In fact, we don’t give thanks often enough, and one time a year at Thanksgiving is just not enough.
We as adult professionals expect a lot from ourselves, our work, and our relationships. As a result, we run the risk of becoming dissatisfied or complaining when things don’t go our way. Important appointments get canceled, trains run late, the media reports bad news, and everyday we get older. In the face of disappointment, why not appreciate what we have rather than going down the road of doom and gloom? We have the power to find something, anything, to be thankful for in this present moment. We can then build on that feeling. How would life be different if we actually expressed how thankful we are that as a living, breathing person, we can get up, put on clean clothes, walk into a coffee shop, and afford a $5 handmade coffee? From this perspective the words thank you can and will mean much more. And that’s something you can be thankful for.