If you lurk around social media, there are high chances that you’ve come across this quote:
Be present in all things and thankful for all things.
It was written by Maya Angelou, and packs a lot of meaning within a small sentence.
To be appreciative of all things is to be conscious in your giving and receiving. Both the acts of being able to give and being able to receive are a privilege: the joy of having people to be thankful to and to have people be thankful to you. In fact, the relationship of thankfulness can also be formed with your surroundings. The fact that you have a shelter, with surrounding nature or a beautiful cityscape, is also a form a thankfulness that we tend to look over.
Feelings of gratitude are not the most natural, and we have a tendency to take people, places, or things for granted, especially in times of difficult times of struggle. That being said, an attitude of thankfulness is something we can slowly cultivate in ourselves with careful intention and practice. Thankfulness alters your attention from what is lacking in your life to that that is already present and abundant.
Moreover, research – both behavioural and psychological – has shown that the practice of thankfulness can lead to life improvements: it can make one happier and more resilient, it can strengthen relationships, and it has the potential to reduce stress and improve health.
Past your physical and mental health, however, thankfulness does something even better: it grounds your soul to yourself, and it makes you feel present and whole. When you’re conscious of the people and environment surrounding you, and take steps to acknowledge them, the awareness within you sharpens itself.
Often times, we live life just going through the motions. Or, at least, we don’t pay attention to the “less meaningful” notions of life. But past our careers and our wants, the “less meaningful” notions of life are the ones that build that basis of our lives and our selves. The people who make you smile, the fresh air that you can breathe in everyday, the food that you or someone else puts on the table – these are the things that subconsciously keep you going.
Being thankful also includes being thankful to yourself for the things that you do for yourself: taking care of your health, ensuring proper meals, spoiling yourself – the habit of being more thankful shouldn’t exclude one of the most important people in your life: yourself. Don’t mistake thankfulness for false optimism: to say we feel grateful is not equivalent to saying that everything in our lives is amazing or great. It just means that we are aware of the presences and blessings in our lives.
Life is a blur, and tends to go by without any sign of slowing down at all. It’s unhesitant in its rush to move. In this whirlwind, it’s easy to forget not only how to be thankful, but to be thankful at all in the first place. However, thankfulness need not be a grand gesture; rather, consistency is key. It’s an easy feeling to show on a regular basis, and not just when you have the time to do so or when things or going great. After all, we’re often thankful for people and things in our toughest times.
Easy ways to show thankfulness:
1. Shift away from an attitude of complaining.
This shows a respect for yourself and your situation. There’s a slippery slope between venting due to frustration and to victimise yourself by complaining and purposely believing you’re in a situation you can’t get out of. Complaining is equivalent to going out of your way to find fault in a situation, and although it might feel good temporarily – to blame extenuating circumstances and life – chronic complaining can drain life of pleasure. When we feel negative and keep ourselves from feeling anything else, we are unable face the next situation with an open mind, and the cycle deepens further.
Instead, be thankful to yourself and the people supporting you. Find yourself in a sticky situation? And even worse, can’t find a way out? Ask people for help. People who love you will definitely help you out in any way they can. Do your best to gain new perspectives and think of alternate ways that you might not have thought of otherwise. Take breaks; ideas always strike when the brain has space to relax and think in more creative manners. Show appreciation for yourself by respecting yourself and believing that you have the strength and capacity to move on from a difficult situation.
2. Write a Gratitude/Thankfulness Journal.
There are many reasons that a thankfulness journal can help you keep in touch with yourself and gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of your surroundings. One reason for a having a gratitude journal is that it improves your self-esteem. A journal is a personal activity that makes you conscious of the steps you take, and it allows you to connect with your own achievements. When you show thankfulness, you tend to reduce social comparisons and levels of resentment towwards others. When you note this down and journal it, it makes it more permanent and concrete; it has a calming effect on your nature and seperates your achievements from that of others. By penning down your gratitude, you also view others in a more positive light as you see their illuminating presence in your life, as opposed to comparing yourself or viewing yourself or them negatively.
Journalling about what you’re thankful about before you sleep also grants you a better night’s sleep. By reminiscing on the positive experiences that you’ve had across the span of a day or reminding yourself of the things you have to be thankful for, you are less inclined to go to sleep worrying about your worries. Instead, you go to bed with a restful mind that’s happier. Writing these things down allows you relive those moments and experience joy. It also urges you to maintain or strengthen relations, which only makes you happier!
When you deliberately journal about yourself and how you should thank yourself, you’re also reminding yourself to take better care of yourself. In the long run, this usually indiciates healthier lives with lower stress levels. By writing down how you appreciate yourself and boosting your self-esteem, you tend to be more grounded and might have a stronger tendency to deal with whatever life throws at you.
3. Remember: a little effort goes a long way.
Instead of a quick text or e-mail (although those are great, and better than nothing at all!), a small hand-written thank-you card goes a long way in making a lasting impreession. The recipient is likely to remember the card for a long, long time. A physical momento made by hand shows how you appreciate someone by investing your time and effort. In this digital age, it makes one feel extra-appreciated that someone would spend the time to write out a thought-out note to give thanks.
On a similar note, if you can, skip the e-mail or Whatsapp message and in their stead, verbaliise your thanks. This boosts the energy of both sender and receiver. Similar to handwritten message, verbal messages show the recipient that you have spent thought in wanting to get a message across to them. These verbal acknolwedgements may also lead to conversations that lead to mutual shows of appreciation, making both your and their day better.
It’s often thought that showing thankfulness take too much effort or time out of our already busy days, but in actual fact, showing your gratitude doesn’t have to be too extensive at all. In fact, through a few simple steps, you can potray your thankfulness and be all the better for it. Let the process and habit of thankfulness ground you to yourself and to your surrounding anchors. Once it becomes a consistent habit, it urges you to build on your esteem and happiness, and only strengthens the relationship you have with your colleagues, friends, or family.
Be aware of what you give and receive, and relish in it. Be conscious of who and what anchors you to your world, and then do what is necessary to show the appreciation you have for them being the anchors in your world. It’s easy to get lost and confused on the journey of life, and it is often these wonderful anchors that remember us to come back to ourselves. Be it through a note, a journal, or a verbal message, take the extra small step that is only bound to build up your relationship with your loved ones and yourself.
Be present in all things and thankful for all things.