Many years ago I took a course that had an instructor who advocated the concept of gratitude. He shared how he began every day and ended every evening by listing all that he had to be thankful for. He told us how as soon as he woke, he’d begin listing in his mind all the things he felt thankful for. His wife sleeping beside him. The blanket over them. The mattress underneath. The roof overhead. And on and on, his list would multiply throughout the day.
He instructed that every day we write out a list of one hundred things to be thankful for. He’d enthuse, “It’s easy! That’s a short list, so let’s get going!”
If a student was going through a rough time and couldn’t think of anything to be thankful for, he would always begin talking about health. He’d discuss giving thanks for our sense of sight, of hearing, of smell, taste and touch. He’d remind people to be thankful for having free mobility, and not needing a wheelchair or crutches.
Then he’d talk about being pain-free and remembering to not take that for granted. He’d ask, “Do you suffer from painful indigestion? Headaches? Heartburn? Are you suffering right now…? No? Thank goodness. Then give thanks for that! Has your back ever gotten out of alignment and really hurt you? Yes? Is it hurting you now? No? Great! Write it down. Give thanks for that.”
He was a passionate trainer and enjoyed getting people fired up about how much there is to be thankful for. Once we started our lists, the items would grow quickly. We would give thanks for the people that cared about us, as well as those that don’t – for they teach us to not worry about any one who doesn’t like us. We would give thanks for times of sickness or scarcity or heartbreak, for these times teach us to more fully appreciate our wellness and abundance and love.
I took that course over twenty years ago. I’ve grown older, and have been through experiences that I’d not wish on anyone. Yet no matter what has happened, no matter the hurts I’ve been through, I have found that this view of gratitude always holds true. We simply cannot hold thoughts of gratitude and depression at the same time. If we are willing to truly open our eyes and see, we are always better off than someone out there. We always have something to be thankful for.
When we focus on how much we have to be grateful for, our burdens feel lighter. Our sense of humor returns. And most importantly for me, I feel a sense of wonder and joy everywhere I look. I actually feel closer to God.
As the 14th century mystic Meister Eckhart put it so wisely, “If the only prayer you ever say in your life is ‘thank you’ that would suffice.”
Seek out things to be thankful for. Remembering this simple yet crucial concept will consistently lift your spirits and brighten your day. It works for me!