During the fall of the year I was in first grade, I was affected by an obscure disease that caused me to miss several weeks of school and eventually landed me in the hospital. My hospitalization occurred just before Thanksgiving, and I remember spending those long days in bed praying that I would be home in time to celebrate the holiday with my family. I couldn’t imagine having to watch the Macy’s parade from my hospital room, and I definitely didn’t want to miss out on my Opa’s roasted turkey or my Oma’s potatoes. (After a week subsisting on IV fluids, the mere thought of those savory dishes had me salivating.)
My prayers were answered, and I was given a clean bill of health in time to spend Thanksgiving at home. We had a lot to be grateful for around our Thanksgiving table that year, and the experience solidified the holiday’s status as my favorite day of the year.
To this day, I cite Thanksgiving as my very favorite holiday. I love the food, the excuse for family togetherness, and the noncommercial aspect of the holiday; but most of all, I love the fact that our nation has designated an entire day to the expression of gratitude.
By now, I’m sure that we’ve all read the research supporting the benefits of gratitude. Grateful people experience better physical and emotional health. Gratitude improves self esteem, enhances empathy, increases resilience, and can even play a role in overcoming trauma. Beyond these personal benefits, a spirit of thanksgiving happens to be the best and most appropriate response to God’s abundant blessings.
You’d think that just one of these reasons would be compelling enough to motivate the most stubborn of ingrates into action. Unfortunately, an attitude of gratitude doesn’t always come naturally and can take some attention and effort. There are a number of useful prompts and exercises to help you incorporate more gratitude into your life. (I really love this list of 22 exercises).
One particularly challenging but useful exercise is the “Burdens-to-Blessings” method, which requires you to find reasons to be thankful for something you had previously viewed as a burden. Today, I thought I’d share five of my own Burdens-Turned-To-Blessings to inspire you in creating a list of your own.
1. I am thankful for cold, rainy days because they enhance my appreciation for warm, sunny weather.
2. I am thankful for my battles with OCD, anxiety, depression, and anorexia because they force me to rely on God and help me to empathize with others who suffer.
3. I am thankful for the times when Charlie has been sick because they remind me of how fortunate I am to have a child who is usually healthy.
4. I am thankful for household chores that only exist because I have a wonderful home in which to live.
5. I am thankful for technology that doesn’t always work because it makes me more aware of technological advances that have expanded my world and vastly improved my quality of life.
We all have the ability and opportunity to cultivate gratitude. Though it is something we should be doing on a daily basis, Thanksgiving provides us with the nudge we might need to make gratitude a way of life.
However you are choosing to expand your gratitude this holiday, I hope you have a very blessed Thanksgiving! I will be taking the rest of the week off to celebrate with my family, but I’ll meet you back here next Monday for a recap of what I’ve been up to this November.
If you’re interested in reading more of my thoughts on gratitude and Thanksgiving, let me direct you to a few posts from my archives.
Three Years Ago: Giving Thanks
Three Years Ago: “My Dad daid on fraiday” // Dix Family 2013 Thanksgiving Card
Two Years Ago: Cultivating Character // Gratitude
And for fun, here’s last year’s Countdown to Thanksgiving.