I think it was literally within the last couple of years that I made the connection between Thanksgiving and giving thanks. Since I was born, I had always done the same thing on Thanksgiving – go to my aunt and uncle’s house with lots of family and eat a big turkey meal in the early afternoon. I guess I’m slow sometimes with obvious things. When Christmas gets closer, I’ll tell you about how I literally didn’t associate Christmas with Jesus until I was like 21 or so. Seriously. It was about opening presents. Anyway, I thought a few words about giving thanks might be in order, because sometimes we don’t feel very thankful. And that’s okay.
Being thankful can have a powerful effect on humans. I’ve written before about stress levels and brain states and the book Wired For Joy (read It’s Just a Brain State!). The author, Dr. Laurel Mellin, gives specific tools for moving from stressed brain states to more relaxed ones. She developed these tools after doing years and years of some serious scientific research, and guess what? Writing down or saying what we’re thankful for or grateful for is a prominent part of at least one of those tools. So there’s something to it.
The trick is that sometimes we’re in a pissy mood and just don’t feel very thankful. And sometimes, we feel like our life is not going very well and we really don’t feel thankful at all. In these cases, it might be helpful to stop what you’re doing, accept that feeling of being unthankful and let it be there but without holding it, and then go a bit deeper in terms of what you might be thankful for. Lower your standards a bit, because for one, it could always be worse. Some people might question that, but it’s true if you really look. We just aren’t qualified to judge our lives since we don’t see the whole picture. We see a narrow part, so we have to put off that impulse to judge good or bad, success or failure, etc.
I’ve found that when I’ve felt not very thankful and I’ve stopped and released that, and then just sat for a minute or two, more thankful thoughts and feelings have emerged. I think they’re always there, but they get covered up.
Anyway, that’s my two cents on Thanksgiving. I know that plenty of people are very thankful for their lives and plenty of others aren’t. If you aren’t, you might be able to go a little bit deeper and end up feeling more at peace with it.