The Thankful Mindset
This Thanksgiving, I hope you found lots to be thankful for! It’s nice to have a special day of the year to spend with family and/or friends and recognize that we have a lot to be happy for, and for many, it’s one of the happiest times of year.
But Thanksgiving isn’t the only time you can express this kind of gratitude — being thankful year-round is one of the best things you can do for your happiness. In our modern culture, filled with ads for the latest clothes or electronics, Instagram models and Youtubers and perfect Facebook pages projecting idealized (read: cherrypicked) stories, it’s easy to feel like we’re missing out on something, like our lives should be better, or that we should have more.
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but I just wanted to put my own spin on it: focusing on what you don’t have won’t make you happy. Focusing on what you want can and should drive your goals, but it’s absolutely a trap to tell yourself that you’ll be happy when you get <insert thing here>; what happens when you get it? Do you remember the last time you really wanted, say, that new pair of sneakers really badly — what did you feel like when you got it? Happy for sure, but the happiness derived from obtaining material wealth is fleeting. When the novelty wears off, there’s always the next thing to want.
And because there’s always something more to be wanted, something more to be had, your happiness becomes about chasing milestones rather than being present and attentive. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t ever want to improve your circumstances or never buy yourself something nice, or even that it’s bad to be dissatisfied with where you stand. What I am saying is that you can’t let what you don’t have stop you from appreciating what you do have. That’s gratitude. You could always have less. Life always can, and sometimes will, take things away from you, precious, irreplaceable things — when we spend too much effort focusing on the negatives, we find that when these things are lost, we never truly appreciated them, and that’s the biggest feeling of regret there is.
Being happy with what you have is a platform upon which you can build more. There’s something there, as opposed to focusing on something that isn’t there. It’s a focus on a form of nothingness, and it’s much harder to build something from nothing than it is to build off of what you already have.
Bottom line is, if you’re reading this, you have internet access, and I’m going to infer from that that you probably had some kind of Thanksgiving meal today and aren’t too worried about what to eat tomorrow, that you have a protected place to sleep tonight, clean water. That already puts you at better off than over a billion people around the world who aren’t even thinking about manifestations of material wealth like a shiny watch or a new car. Don’t underestimate the basics.
Once your survival is accounted for, family, friends, things worth working hard on — that’s what matters. Take inventory, count your blessings. Wake up each morning grateful, spread the love and happiness, look for ways to add value to the lives of others, and ignore the constant bombardment of “you should want more” that we’re faced with daily :)