Think that you have little to be thankful for this month? Haven’t taken time to think about the blessings you have?
For starters, you can be grateful that you weren’t one of the pilgrims who broke bread together that first Thanksgiving in 1621. I clipped these facts from the Arizona Republic years ago, just to remind myself that even on the toughest days, I have nothing to complain about. Here’s what some of our ancestors encountered to come to America.
They had uprooted themselves from their lives and sailed for the New World. The journey was so hazardous that guides advised travelers to “First, make thy will.”
The trip was treacherous, to say the least. The Mayflower was actually blown off course, and instead of reaching Virginia, where there were Englishmen who had settled there 13 years earlier, the pilgrims ended up in the wilds of Massachusetts.
When they finally found and settled on Plymouth, winter had set in. The storms were terrible, and shelter was only rudimentary. With little food, nearly all the settlers fell ill.
Within three months of settling in Plymouth, nearly half the company died from disease and starvation. “There died sometimes two or three of a day,” Colonial Governor William Bradford later recalled.
Though Native Americans showed the pilgrims how to plant corn, the settlers’ first crops were dismal. Soon, supplies ran out and England refused to send more. Yet they persevered. I doubt any of us has ever faced such daunting obstacles.
By comparison, our lives seem pretty manageable. Developing an attitude of gratitude takes so little effort, yet many of us need a refresher course in how to be thankful for what we have.
Thanksgiving is a time for togetherness. Take time to relax. Don’t overschedule yourself. Build some extra time into your day so you can talk to family and friends, enjoy your meal and genuinely give thanks for being together.
Stop and take note of the things in your life that are good, instead of focusing on the current – and often inconsequential – things that seem to be going wrong. Take care not to fall into whining, even though we almost all do now and then. But it can become a bad habit if you don’t take stock of the good things in your life once in a while.
The trick is to not take things for granted. Sometimes this arises from the idea that life owes us better than we are receiving. Sometimes it comes from habits we have mindlessly picked up from other people. But whining and complaining won’t likely change your situation or how you feel. When you are in the midst of a pity party, you might want to try some of the following tips to remind yourself just how much you have to be thankful for.
• Stop and smell the roses. Take some time out to acknowledge the good things in life. Take the day off and do something fun, take a bike ride or a walk to enjoy the beauty of nature. Look at the world around you from a different angle.
• Do something for someone else. If you are focused solely on your own problems, one of the best ways to break the cycle of negativity is to go out and do something for someone else. Volunteer at a foodbank, cook dinner for an ailing neighbor or help out with a community project. The point is to change your focus and do something good for another person. These types of activities can radically change your mood and put your own situation in perspective.
• Talk about the good things in life. Even if it feels awkward, say something positive. Break through the barrier of negativity that you are trapped in. Vow to say something positive at least once a day for a week. You likely will be surprised by the power of your own thoughts and words on your mood.
May I give you an example of the good things in my life for which I am thankful? Top of the list is my wife and family. I’m grateful for the example my parents set for my sister and me. I am blessed with wonderful and loyal friends. I appreciate the people who have worked for me and with me over the years. I am very appreciative for the audiences I speak to and the readers of my books and columns. In short, I can always find something to be thankful for.
Mackay’s Moral: Happy Thanksgiving – and happy thanks giving.