For those of us who are comfortable, and in the West that is most of us, a sense of entitlement can creep up on us. Entitlement causes us to envy and to compare ourselves with others. We have all done it.
Nevertheless, it is both stupid and destructive. When I observe and serve those less fortunate, I return my thoughts to that which I otherwise take for granted and instead give thanks, then I wake up and become reasonable again. I see things from a more mature perspective and realise that I am blessed.
A feature of this kind of deep benefit of giving thanks is that it is not always immediately obvious to us. It sometimes takes years, if ever, to come to our awareness.
So may I wish you a fabulous holiday season, however you celebrate it, and may you realise how truly blessed you are this Christmas!
Preface: As you read this, you may think this article is posted a week late. Please read on.
Outside of the USA, most countries do not celebrate Thanksgiving as a holiday. And here in the UK, there is a particular suspicion over American holidays. (For example, we Brits have mixed feelings at best about the Independence Day holiday.) However, for the last two years, some friends of ours have invited my wife and me, along with other friends and families, to their Thanksgiving meal. This is unusual because our friends are also British.
Why is this? Well, they say,
So, we have a great time enjoying each other’s company, playing games, overindulging in delicious food. Then there is that moment where we go around the table, young and old, each saying what we are grateful for this year; it’s a special moment.
Now, I’m sure you have received emails from American suppliers, as I have, who have written messages at this time as to why they are thankful for you, their customer.
However, I have come to value thanksgiving as a lifestyle. I give thanks all the time. I realise it is just good mental health.
A key practice for me is my Gratitude List, that I add to every day during my daily work planning. I write it on the opposite page to my Daily Heads-Up. You can find out more about the Gratitude List in my daily routine in
Over time, I have become aware that this daily practice has contributed to some important, benefits. Here are a few of them:
It balances my natural tendency to look for the negative. This is called the negativity bias and is an important survival mechanism, where I scan my environment for threats. We all have this bias. This may be natural, but if left unchecked, it can colour our view of life. When we allow ourselves to live in chronic negativity then this can lead to depression, or worse. The emotional mood music of our lives can become dysfunctional, anxious and over-cautious. Rampant negativity can make any otherwise healthy hope feel downright ridiculous.
Since keeping a daily gratitude list, I notice more positive experiences, that I might not have given due thought to, even less have taken a moment to celebrate.
I dwell on these positive experiences more deliberately now. As I do, I find something shifts in me. My heart becomes more positive and generous. I am more hopeful, less likely to be overwhelmed by any negativity that I may encounter.
As I hold myself to this daily practice, it makes me hunt for the positive. Sure, there are some days, I cannot think of three positive experiences from the day before, but then I lift my thoughts to the more long-term factors that I enjoy, such as a marriage to a truly wonderful woman, as well as friends and family that I really do not deserve.
I find myself in interesting conversations with God, to whom I give thanks for it all.
Bréne Brown describes a phenomenon she discovered in her research interviews that she calls foreboding joy. I recognise this psychodynamic in me when I had felt some moment of joy. And then, almost immediately, the thought comes, ‘but this won’t last; I will have to pay for it.’ As I hold myself accountable for giving thanks daily by writing it down, I can now recognise this and I laugh at this lie. It’s weakening. It still comes back occasionally, but it is losing the battle to occupy space in my thinking.
Overall, I realise that my emotional worldview has shifted from the negative to the positive. My lens has changed, from ‘What should I be worried about?’ to ‘What are blessings am I not noticing?’ This could be described as a personal paradigm shift or a change in my confirmation bias.
I wholeheartedly recommend making thanksgiving a lifestyle. It changes everything.
Do you agree? Do you do something similar? Let me know.