A couple of years ago, a friend of mine and I started telling each other one thing we were thankful for every day. At the time, we lived together so it was easy to slide this into our “how-was-your-day” conversations. We started this thankfulness exercise with the intent of being more thankful people. This was simple enough. What we did not realize, is the energy it would add to our days.
We continued this exercise for months until I moved to a different state. Over thanksgiving in 2015, we spent some time together and decided to revive our thankfulness habit despite the long distance friendship. We committed to doing it through the holidays only, so that it would not be too burdensome. The holidays came and went but we didn’t stop. We have been telling each other one thing we are thankful for everyday for the last 10 months and counting!
For us, this exercise has evolved from more than just a way to be more thankful to a lifeline! Over the last 10 months, I have had my share of ups and downs, but here are a few ways this simple practice of thankfulness has helped me:
Thankfulness brings out what is good on the hard days – I am constantly going through my day looking for something to be thankful for. This is easy on the good days, doable on the uneventful days, but especially meaningful on the hard ones. On a hard day, the weight of the day can be overwhelming but looking for something to be thankful for gives me a buoyancy that lets me acknowledge the hardship, but not be drowned by it.
Thankfulness helps me be more honest– I typically compose my thankfulness text at the end of the day which forces me to be still and consider my day. On days when I am struggling to come up with something I am thankful for, I start the text with a description of my day including what I found difficult or frustrating. Almost as soon as I finish articulating this, something to be thankful for usually floats to the surface and often it addresses what soured my day. I realized that sometimes we do not let ourselves slow down enough to take in what is happening and in our ever busy state we do not often realize what is weighing us down. This necessary stillness brought about by the thankfulness exercise has been a blessing. Instead of thankfulness having the unwanted effect of making me put on a façade of happiness, it helps me identify the barriers to my happiness and see the good in difficult situations.
Thankfulness has led to more meaningful interactions – Sharing what I am thankful for everyday with a friend and reading what she is thankful for, gives us both the chance to know a little about each other’s days. There have been countless times when one of us has read a thankfulness text and sensed the need to call the other person to either celebrate or encourage each other.
Thankfulness increases my awareness of God’s presence – As a Christian I believe that we can have a personal relationship with God where He is a part of our everyday experiences. Choosing to be thankful every day makes me more aware of his presence in my days. I discovered I cannot be thankful for something without being thankful to someone. So when I am thankful for a good day at work, I know He is the one who gave me the ability to do my job well that day. When I am thankful for a refreshing walk in the middle of the day, I recognize it is His creation that makes the walking trail pretty. When I am thankful for a wonderful time with friends, it is Him who placed me in the right place at the right time to meet those people and form those relationships.
Practicing thankfulness makes me smile more often – When I started this exercise I would wait until the end of the day to figure out what I was thankful for. This practice has since permeated my life so much, that I now start and go through my entire day looking out for things I can be thankful for. When I am constantly noticing things I am thankful for, it inevitably makes me smile more often. I definitely have days when I am struggling but I have had less of those since this exercise became a part of my daily practice.
Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.
A.A Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh