Let’s talk turkey! And why not? It is November, and that means we celebrate Thanksgiving this month. Now you know, for some people, it’s all about the turkey. Even going so far as to actually call the holiday, “Turkey day.” But for the most of us it’s a day of thanksgiving— A good yearly reminder to count our blessings.
To be sure, when everything in life seems all hunky-dory, the list of things to be grateful for flows pretty easy doesn’t it? But what about when your entire life seems to be falling apart all around you? That’s when it can be especially hard to see past the clouds of turmoil obscuring the blessings that really are there. Is that where you find yourself this year? Are you just not “feeling it” right now? If so, that’s what I want to “talk turkey” about with you.
You might be wondering, what in the world do I mean when I say, to “talk turkey,” so let me explain. According to Cambridge Dictionary, “talk turkey” is defined as “to discuss something honestly and directly.” So you see, I’m not referring to the big bird that will likely grace your table later this month, I really just want to talk openly and frankly with you about practicing gratitude—even when you don’t feel like it.
Everyone, from psychologists, to scientists, to self-help teachers promote the benefits of practicing gratitude. Not just at Thanksgiving, but everyday, all year long. We all know we should practice being grateful and yet, when we find ourselves in the midst of strife counting our blessings can feel like an impossible task. That’s why it’s something we have to be intentional about. Now truth be told, even when everything in our life is going good we can still forget to be grateful. Regrettably, that’s because we tend to take so many things for granted we overlook the importance of practicing gratitude. So let’s first take a look at the benefits of practicing gratitude before we move on to the “how to” of practicing gratitude when you’re just not feeling it.
BENEFITS OF PRACTICING GRATITUDE
Cultivating the skill of practicing gratitude will bring enormous and nearly endless benefits to our bodies, our minds, and our relationships. Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude studied more than one thousand people from the ages of 8 to 80, and found that people who practiced gratitude consistently reported the following benefits:
- Stronger immune systems
- Less bothered by aches and pains
- Lower blood pressure
- Exercise more and take better care of their heath
- Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
- Higher levels of positive emotions
- More alert, alive, and awake
- More joy and pleasure
- More optimism and happiness
- More helpful, generous, and compassionate
- More forgiving
- More outgoing
- Feel less lonely and isolated
So there you have it. In black and white—the benefits that can be yours for the taking. Now, how to get there right? Well, let’s find out.
HOW TO BE GRATEFUL WHEN YOU’RE JUST NOT FEELING IT
Unfortunately, there’s not a switch in your brain you can just turn on and, POOF! You’re grateful. Remember when I said earlier you have to be intentional about it? You do— and really, it’s not difficult, it just takes practice! And with that, I will tell you a little personal story.
In my earlier years I thought I wanted to play the piano. So my parents sent me to lessons and my teacher had a saying she would repeat over and over again. “Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.” I never really understood what she was saying because in my mind I would think, “Well, duh! If I practice perfectly, Hello? I don’t have to practice anymore!” You know, me being full of “kid wisdom and all!” Now, she probably figured out I was “putting in the time” practicing but could tell my heart wasn’t exactly into it. Therefore, it is with regret that I have to tell you the piano didn’t work out well for me. But in retrospect, I think what my teacher was trying to convey to me was that I needed to deliberately practice.
The same can be said for practicing gratitude. Deliberately practicing gratitude isn’t just putting your time in each day throwing out, “Thank You’s!” willy nilly. That would just be going through the motions—not exactly a path to reaping the benefits of becoming truly grateful.
WAYS TO DELIBERATELY PRACTICE GRATITUDE
Granted, feeling grateful when your life feels like a hot mess will take courage and discipline. That’s where being deliberate comes in. But find hope in this—that practicing gratitude in the midst of suffering will play a vital role in helping you to get through the rough waters. Gratitude, if you let it will help you see the big picture and keep you from feeling overwhelmed by the setbacks you might be facing at the moment. So, let’s look at some ways to deliberately practice gratitude.
- Look for the goodness. Practicing gratitude doesn’t mean you ignore your problems or the fact that your life is not perfect. On the contrary, it means you are actively looking for the good things (big or small) in your life regardless of the bad.
- Provide visual reminders. Visual reminders like post-it notes strategically placed in areas you frequent throughout the day such as the bathroom mirror, refrigerator, desk, nightstand, etc., or reminders on your phone will help you to practice gratitude throughout the day.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Take a few moments each day and write down something that happened to be thankful for. And believe me, no matter how hard life feels at the moment there really is always something there if you look for it.
- Don’t stop practicing. Practicing gratitude is a skill and just like any other skill it can fade from non-use. So to keep from “getting out of practice,” keep practicing, deliberately practicing that is.
And now for the individuals out there whose lives seems to be riding the rails of perfect right now. That’s great! However, we all should take the opportunity to practice gratitude every day to guard ourselves against taking things for granted. So, take the time to deliberately identify the goodness in your life and acknowledge the big and the small gifts that come your way wherever they may come from, be it from others, and/or a Higher Power. And remember, gratitude isn’t always about being grateful for what we receive but can also mean being grateful for what we can give others.
If you have been focusing solely on the bad in your life and want (need) help incorporating gratitude in your life, please call me, (Kris Henderson) at 616-516-1570 or schedule an appointment online. Let’s “talk turkey” about the small daily changes you can make regarding gratitude that will lead to big results in improving your satisfaction with life.