So it’s turkey season again. You know the drill: turkey eating, pumpkin pie devouring and family meals gather-rounds where at least one person could very well end up in tears. It’s the autumnal family affair we all know and love – Thanksgiving. Of course, the tearful part of the afternoon is mostly mentioned here for humorous reasons, but there is something to be said about the uncomfortable and unsettling emotions that may come to surface when others seem to put us on the spot and persuade us in analyzing and putting on full display the most recent events of our life.
“We might also be experiencing a certain sense of pressure of having to unwittingly and suddenly have to conform to painting a picture of a scenario that may be far removed from the reality of our dreams as well as our everyday lifestyle choices.”
But why does this annual narration of one’s life before family and friends cause such a stir within, apart from the equally possible stir caused by the rivers of gravy and what feels like an endless supply of pumpkin-y pastry sheets? This maybe so due to experiencing the well-intended curiosity as a nosy intrusion into our carefully and challengingly balanced lives. More so than that, we might also be experiencing a certain sense of pressure of having to unwittingly and suddenly have to conform to painting a picture of a scenario that may be far removed from the reality of our dreams as well as our everyday lifestyle choices.
So, what should have been a great chance of catching up with long lost members of one’s clan, turns into a performance of some sort, where one mostly feels defensive and not at all confident under the scrutiny of so many curiously hungry eyes. However, the key to getting out of this sticky situation is none other than the prime engine of the holiday itself – gratitude, or in other words giving thanks.
“They may not agree with you on every aspect of your life, that is something to be expected, since everybody’s lenses through which they see the world are uniquely tinted, and thus, quite naturally, slightly different than yours.”
Scratching that initial Thanksgiving itch
Let’s start at the proverbial Thanksgiving table in itself. One reason to be grateful is that although the discussions may cause a bit of friction and give way to clammy, sweaty palms, all in all you are surrounded by caring family and friends. Although they may not agree with you on every aspect of your life, that is something to be expected, since everybody’s lenses through which they see the world are uniquely tinted, and thus, quite naturally, slightly different than yours. Secondly, the talk may actually make you aware of the many things you may have otherwise overlooked in the scramble and rush of everyday life. In the end, this might be a wonderful opportunity to realize how far you’ve come.
Let’s get to the root of it
So what do we mean when we refer to ‘gratitude’ anyway? Broadly speaking, researchers in crisp white lab coats have even given a clinical definition to the term and it says the following: “gratitude is the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself; it is a general state of thankfulness and/or appreciation.” One interesting conclusion stemming from this definition seems to also provide the key to getting used to becoming used to expressing gratitude more often and it has to do with the fact that by getting into the habit of practicing being mindfully thankful, we are in a way, honoring ourselves, both our trials and tribulations, along with our most memorable wins. You would be giving yourself that precious congratulatory attention we all like to hear from time to time to know, just to remind ourselves that we are on the right track, as hazy as it may sometimes appear to us.
“A number of various scientific studies have been specifically conducted in order to determine if there truly is a relationship between gratitude and overall well-being.”
Empirical evidence is here to back thankfulness up
Even if you’re not necessarily feeling like saying any ‘thank yous’ too soon, either because life has indeed thrown you some lemons recently and you’re currently in the process of making lemonade, but still not quite there yet, or either because it just doesn’t seem to fit your style of being, maybe we can try the practical route. A number of various scientific studies have been specifically conducted in order to determine if there truly is a relationship between gratitude and overall well-being.
And wouldn’t you know it, the majority of results seem to give a big thumbs up to saying those two magic words in a heartbeat – gratitude seems to even beat optimism when it comes to providing people with those good, happy feelings. Heck, even adolescents have proven to become happier through their trying puberty-filled days, if expressing gratitude. Then perhaps, we old grumpy folk might like to at least give it a try and see it doesn’t really hurt anybody.
“By recognizing and focusing on the good things instead of the smallest ones that don’t go our way, we are actively enriching our lives in a way that does not require of us to do anything more than changing an attitude.”
Speaking of hurt, thankfulness may very well erase pain
On the spectrum of ‘good’ versus the ‘not-so-good’ I think it’s safe to say that expressing thanks is closer to that first option above. In fact, I would argue it may be the panacea you and everybody else has been craving for treating the various emotional hurts we sometimes have to get through. By recognizing and focusing on the good things instead of the smallest ones that don’t go our way, we are actively enriching our lives in a way that does not require of us to do anything more than changing an attitude. By focusing on the good parts in the people around us and the things they do instead of the annoying frictions that are bound to come to light even in the smoothest of relationships, you’ll be offering that other someone standing beside you a welcoming change of pace, a pretty gift wrapped in a pretty red bow of gratitude that recognizes their efforts and love, and doesn’t dwell on the trivial.
The paradox of life
If all else fails, think about the sarcastic twist of it all – the fact that we may be struggling here and there, the fact that gratitude may not come easily, that’s maybe the main thing to be thankful for. The fact that you are here, and that you are facing these issues, that in itself is something that had a chance of happening of only one in seven billion, and yet here you are. And that is enough of a reason to just breathe out in relief and be content. The hard part’s already behind us.
November 24, 2016