Happy Thanksgiving aka “Turkey Day”!

It’s Thanksgiving in America today or what I like to call, “Turkey Day”.  Hmmmm…turkey…yum!  I love the fact that there is a dedicated holiday to focus on giving thanks!  We don’t really observe something like it in South Africa, but I honestly wish we could.  Someone get on that?  I know it may seem so simple to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, but it is a lot more than just listing a few things each evening that you’re grateful for or just giving thanks once a year!

After all the political upheaval happening in America, I was wondering if Thanksgiving this year was especially poignant?  It is easy to be thankful and to express gratitude when things are going our way or if we have a glorious feast spread out before us (I’m all about dat baste! Haha!).  But what about the times when things aren’t going our way?

I am sure many Americans are not feeling particularly thankful this season.  They are probably feeling quite fearful…what does the future hold?  And what does this mean for your businesses and economy?  It may come as a surprise (or not), but we South Africans know those sensations and fears intimately.  We have been grappling with them this entire year.  2016 wasn’t the best year for our country and sadly the mood is rather unthankful.  So how to cultivate an attitude of gratitude in such an environment?

But, as I am sure you are going to read and hear about a million times over today, we shouldn’t just be grateful on one day a year.  We should rather practice gratitude daily.  I have learned that practicing gratitude, especially when it is difficult, lifts you out of the slumps and reminds you that there is always HOPE.  I sometimes feel surrounded by negativity.  I hear words spoken over my country, sad and heavy words, words like “This country has gone to waste and will never be the same again” or, “Our future and the future for our children is ruined” or, “It’s pointless, we may as well leave”.  We can leave, but go where?  It hurts my heart to have this burden of negativity surrounding me all the time.  So, in that moment, I began to think of all the things I love and I am grateful for in South Africa.

I am grateful for the sunshine, it is almost always light and bright here.  The attitude of many may be gloomy, but the weather certainly isn’t.  I am grateful for the food, which is costly, but still good and nutritious.  I am thankful for the culture of sharing and community.  If you go anywhere in South Africa on a Saturday afternoon, from the city centre to the far out rural villages, chances are high you will see people coming together for a braai, which is more than just a BBQ, it is community.  These small things that I am grateful for won’t solve the problems in my country, but they did make me feel less afraid, less burdened and more hopeful.  And hopefully that attitude will be catching!

I believe that you attract into your life what you focus on.  Like attracts like.  So, when we practice true gratitude for the blessings in our lives, we begin to draw more blessings in.  It’s not necessarily some invisible force pulling blessings into your life, but rather you become more attuned to opportunities to be blessed.  You are more aware of things to be grateful for!  True gratitude isn’t the act of mechanically listing the blessings in our lives every night before we go to sleep.

Gratitude is an Attitude.

It’s a mindset of thankfulness and joy for the wonderful blessings in our lives.  Our hearts and minds are lifted in joy when we reflect on the beauty and love surrounding us.  It’s a heartfelt acknowledgement that our lives would not be as happy as they are now if we didn’t have those blessings.

That’s where Faith comes in. Gratitude and Faith go hand in hand.  Gratitude is reflecting on and being thankful for the blessings we do have, while Faith affirms that more are on the way.  Maybe not everything in our lives is the way we want it to be, but some things are wonderful, and the things that aren’t so wonderful will get better in time.

Studies have shown that gratitude can be learned and increased (McCullough and Emmons 2003).  Results showed that participants who kept weekly journals noting how they felt while recording five things they were grateful for, that after 10 weeks of this practice, those individuals reported fewer health complaints and increased well-being.  This study showed that a conscious focus on blessings may have many emotional and interpersonal benefits!

I do however want to make very clear that you shouldn’t practice gratitude to avoid or deny negative things in your life.  And expressing gratitude is not just for the big things either!  Enjoying a cup of coffee, having a lovely conversation and so on are all examples of things one can be grateful for.  Remember, gratitude is not about a (downward) comparison.  Of course, things can be worse!  But focusing on that is not the essence of gratitude.  It is possible to be grateful for something without making the comparison to people who are worse off!

There are many things in our lives, both big and small, for which we can express gratitude.  So, for the next week, I want to encourage you to list the thing that you are grateful for.  Why not start today?  Some examples would be supportive relationships, things and actions that others have done for you, a really good cup of coffee or rain falling softly outside.  Write them down and then let me know how you feel and what you begin to notice in yourself and the world around you!

Before you go, I can’t help but share this hilarious video about Thanksgiving!

Have a wonderful “Turkey Day” and eat, drink, give thanks and be merry!