Here we are in November again, and I could swear it’s either been ten minutes or ten years (depending on the day) since last November. We’ve seen so many changes in the past year that I don’t think any of us can keep track anymore, but as we celebrate this traditional time of appreciation in North America, one thing that hasn’t changed is that we all can - and should - find things to be thankful for each day.
While gratitude might be more challenging right now, the serious decrease in messages of thanks this year as opposed to those previous strikes me as both sad and detrimental. I have always truly enjoyed the act of giving thanks, not just in November or around the family dinner table but also vocally and joyfully whenever possible. While I certainly give thanks for things, corporeal and otherwise, I most of all give thanks for and to people, for what they do or say or influence.
People love to be thanked. Think back to the last time someone genuinely thanked you – I bet it felt great. A couple of weeks ago I was talking to someone who expressed frustration with their ability to keep everything organized in our ever-changing world, and I said not to worry, we are all feeling like that right now and no one should feel bad about it. The person stopped, looked at me, and said, “THANK YOU for saying that. It really helps to hear it.” That thanks – over a simple matter that didn’t require any effort, just human empathy - made me happy not just in the moment, but for days afterwards.
The positive influence goes both ways, too. Cognitive psychology tells us that looking for things to be thankful for and people to thank actually makes us happier. Research shows that expressing gratitude makes us feel good not just in the moment, but even potentially for months afterwards. Thankfulness is one of life’s few win-win situations; everyone involved benefits from appreciation.
So let’s take the time to be thankful, and let’s all try to express that thanks as often as we can. Let’s thank the delivery people, and the friend who called just to catch up, and the kid who stopped to pick up the litter on the sidewalk. Let’s thank the woman at the grocery store entrance making sure there aren’t too many people inside, and the neighbor who always parks across the street on trash day so that you can both fit your bins at the curb, and the man on the phone from the student loan company who has no idea how to solve your problem but is trying his best anyway. And let’s thank our families, even for the little things like putting away the dishes or changing the lightbulb on the porch or hanging up the coat that fell off the coatrack. Together, we can make the whole world a better and happier place.