Being thankful means different things to different people. For some, there is religious flavor to being thankful. For others, it’s more spiritual. We celebrate Thanksgiving, and I like to think that people take a moment to be thankful for their blessings, but for some it’s hard to be thankful when times are tough. As we talk about being thankful, it’s important to think about what it means to you, and how it affects you when you think about it.
I have worked with some patients that struggle with the concept of being thankful. When I explore their family history, sometimes there is an aversion to thinking about positive things. The way previous generations managed emotions and simple things like being thankful has a profound effect on how kids manage those things. I have always taught my kids to say please and thank you, but there are other families that don’t make that a priority. I also talk with my kids about the things we have to be thankful for, like a home, family and friends. Again, for other families, this isn’t the case. Something I work on at times in therapy is helping people acknowledge the little things that they do have, even if they are overwhelmed by loss or other stress. Sometimes, people need help with these skills, because they didn’t learn it from their family.
When you think about things to be thankful for, even in the face of loss or pain, there is always something, even if it’s hard to determine. I talk with patients about being thankful for getting up in the morning, for having family, for having a job, or for having their health. It really all depends on their situation, but there tends to be something we can identify. As I said, I am thankful for my kids and my family, but I’m also thankful for the opportunities that I have been offered. Even though I graduated in a lot of debt, I am thankful for my education. I’m also thankful for all the people I have met through my life. I learn from everyone I meet, from patients, to friends, to the people at the grocery store. I appreciate those lessons and I’m thankful for the easy lessons, and for the hard ones. I tend to learn more from the hard ones.
As you are thinking about things you have to be thankful for, talk to others about what they might be thankful for. I’m amazed at times when I ask that question by the answers I get. People who are depressed often can’t think of anything. People who are in a better place in their life can think of many things. One time talking with someone, they were thankful for “another day above ground”. I can agree with that. Sometimes when I’m down, I research things that people are thankful for and it helps me remember. Google “things to be thankful for” and you will find lots of ideas if you need them.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember, but we all have things to be thankful for, even if it means you are thankful that you have a future to make changes in your life. Find what you are thankful for, and let it help you change your perspective. It can help on your journey to be happy for life.