I find myself overwhelmed today by this one day of giving thanks. Why do we show gratitude just one day of the year when there is so much to be thankful for all around us, all year long, that we should acknowledge on a daily basis.
In the three years I worked abroad, I only made one short trip home in the summertime. I thought I was tough enough to stay abroad, work, and travel my heart out. But to be honest, it was not as easy as I expected. Homesickness, particularly during the holiday season, knocked ferociously at my door. And surrounding myself with expat co-workers and friends did not suffice in comparison to mom’s home cooked meals or chats with childhood friends.
During one of these Debbie Downer moments, a mentor advised me to make a list of all the things I was grateful for. He said to write everything and “don’t put a time limit on yourself and just write the things you are thankful for.”
The list turned into two long pages, front and back. I had to put the pencil down to give my hand a rest. Items on that list varied from things like boots to keep my feet warm and protected from the cold winter weather; to being thankful for the creation of the internet that keeps me informed me about anything and everything I could ever want.
I remember after I made that list, I felt different. And different in a good way. The days that followed, I re-read the list and added a few more items like being thankful for having a job and a steady income, being able to pay my bills, and buy groceries. I was starting to feel better. My focus from missing my family dwindled and transformed to a gratitude for simply having such loving people, like my mother and father, in my life in the first place, despite their location in proximity to me.
Various studies, most predominately from scientists at UC Davis and Harvard, have displayed that routine gratitude practices decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation, and increase levels of positive emotions such as joy, optimism, and happiness. It can even increase immune system strength and lower blood pressure.
This gratitude practice has turned into a daily routine in my life and has introduced a new term to my vocabulary- abundance.
Abundance, I believe, is all around us at all times. We just need to be conscious enough to recognize it in its simplest form and acknowledge its presence.
Marie Forleo explains it well in her episode What To Do When Life Hands You a Sh*t Sandwich, where she says before you complain about the bad luck that has come your way, reflect on your perspective of the situation and your circumstances. And yes, we all know that we are privileged compared to individuals living in other parts of the world.
But sometimes we do need to be reminded that we have a lot to be thankful for just by living in a first world country.
If Marie can’t convince you, then watch Angelina Jolie’s recent speech at the Governors Ball upon her acceptance of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and try not to agree with her.
So this Thanksgiving, after three years, I am home, surrounded by my family and more thankful than ever. I am grateful for the time I was given to work abroad and live and learn in a society foreign to me. I visited many countries very different from my homeland and saw things that I only heard about in the late night news.
I have made it a habit to remind myself of the simple things I am so fortunate to have access to: clean water to drink, healthy food to eat, a safe home to rest my head, and loving people around me.
What are you thankful for this holiday season? Do you practice gratitude reflection once a year? Or on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis? We invite you to share what you're most thankful for and how you celebrate abundance today and all year long.