Thanksgiving Is Gratitude
Why stop at just one day? Gratitude is something that we can practice all year round.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite American traditions. Before the pandemic, I’d go to my mom’s house in California, spend time with the family and eat great food. I’d visit with friends and get all melancholy around my old stomping grounds. I’d see how things have changed every year. But not this year. This year, I will still practice the tradition of Thanksgiving, but without all the travel, friends, and family. Even in the year of the pandemic, I will still practice gratitude on this day, as I do every day, but Thanksgiving makes it more formal.
Thanksgiving is a unique tradition in the sense that it is a wide-open celebration of gratitude. I see it in my social media feeds already. I’ve seen many people expressing gratitude for their mates, their kids, their jobs, and their lives. There is a lot of gratitude out there if you’re looking to find it. Thanksgiving is a reminder to us all that everything we have right now is a gift.
I am grateful for everything that I have right now. I love my family. I have a job that I can work from home. I have a home that I could only dream of years 6 short years ago. I have neighbors I love. I love to write. I love to read. I can find something to be grateful for, anytime, anywhere, every day. Thanksgiving is not just a tradition to be practiced once a year. Thanksgiving is gratitude that I practice on a continual basis.
Gratitude is a verb, it is the action of noticing every reason I could ever have to be happy. Happiness requires cognition. Happiness requires acknowledgment of any reason at all to be happy. There is a discrete, minimum amount of energy that must be expended to achieve a state of happiness. And we get to decide how to expend that energy, every minute of every day. Gratitude is not confined to passing out on the couch after eating too much turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Gratitude is the action we take on a continual basis to find happiness for a reprieve from temptation.
Gratitude is an interesting concept. I have been studying it now for years to understand how it works and what it does for me. I have watched gratitude transform my life over the last 18 years. I was introduced to gratitude by people in recovery from sex and love addiction, compulsive debting, recovering drug addicts, and alcoholics. Those people who made a choice to turn their lives around from the lowest of the low, know what gratitude is.
I know what it’s like to be poor. I know what it's like to just not have what I wanted. I was angry, resentful, and jealous of others. And all that negative thinking made me really tired. It didn’t get me anywhere. Anger, resentment, and jealousy are all states of mind that require other people to change. Gratitude doesn’t just require me to change, it changes me.
I can remember a point in my life where I was working under the table, renting rooms or small apartments. I was just scraping by on anger, jealousy, and resentment. I started to let that go because I was tired of being poor. I got a regular job. Then I got into credit card debt. I was working, and hiding from creditors. I was addicted to that game. I had my answering machine set with the sound of a disconnected line tone, and an outgoing message that said, “Hello. Unless you are a friend or close relative, this number has been disconnected or is no longer in service. If you feel that you have reached this number in error, please try again.” That’s how I dealt with the autodialers of the collection agencies. All that was tiring, too.
I got into recovery from compulsive debting. I read “How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, and Live Prosperously*: Based on the Proven Principles and Techniques of Debtors Anonymous”, by Jerrold Mundis. I went to meetings. I worked the steps. I began to make progress. I began to pay off my debts. I began to learn about gratitude when I took my own inventory, for when we take our inventory, we don’t just look at the bad, we look at the good. And there was a lot of good in my life, even when I was in debt. I found some gratitude.
Then while still working on that program, a friend of mine introduced me to the idea of a gratitude list. It was a simple concept. Every day, first thing in the morning, I’d write a list of ten things I was grateful for that moment. It seemed corny and contrived at first. But over time, it started to grow on me. I started to like it. It became a habit for me. I felt “naked” if I didn’t do that list in the morning. I still write that list every day.
In the process of learning the habit of gratitude, I began to save money and pay off my debts. They are paid off now. I have a couple of credit cards now, but I use them for the discounts and I pay them off every week so the balance doesn’t get too big. I watch my balances. I watch my savings. I see a state of steady saving, but I do so in gratitude.
The one thing that a habit of gratitude does better than anything else is to relieve me of any sense of deprivation. I noticed that once I became grateful, I started to notice all the gifts in life that I already had. Then more gifts started to come. I’d “find money under the couch” through some accounting error, or a credit that I didn’t know I had earned, or I’d get an extra, unscheduled paycheck at work (this happened for several years with no clawback). In gratitude, I have received numerous gifts in life that I can and cannot explain. But being grateful increases my awareness of those gifts and gratitude makes it easy for me to receive gifts.
Gratitude has been to me, a complete and total transformation of my outlook on life. Gratitude crowds out fear, anger, resentment, and jealousy. If I’m in gratitude, I have less time for negativity. Gratitude is attractive. People just want to be around you when you’re in gratitude. Gratitude is infectious. People have a natural tendency to imitate each other. So if I’m raking my lawn, my neighbor comes out to rake his lawn. If I’m in gratitude, the people around me tend to be in gratitude, too. Gratitude begins and ends a virtuous circle.
Thanksgiving is very nice for me every year, and I enjoy it, so I don’t stop there. I keep the gratitude going all year long.