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30 Days of Giving Thanks

I want what I have to feel like enough.


Have you ever scrolled through the social media profiles of friends and acquaintances and thought, “I wish I had a new car…” or “I’d give anything to take a vacation like that,” or “I wish our family was more like theirs.” Maybe you’ve walked through Target or Lowe’s and wished for lots of new or different things. Have you ever glanced over to the neighbor’s pristine yard and back to your own, filled with sand burs and bare spots, and thought “I wish my yard was nice like that?” (Like I did just today and every day)

But the only way what we have will feel like enough is if we just decide that it is so. I learned that from a psychiatrist who wrote the book “Happiness Is A Choice” and a Disney Cast Member who showed me the way. But more on that after this…

Absent abuse, addictions, or mental health struggles that require medical intervention, the outlook we have can be influenced or altered by the habits we practice. And a habit of gratitude will illuminate the good in our life, which in turn alters our spirit positively.

Dr. Robert Emmons, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of California Davis, is the author or editor of over eight books and 200 articles about the science and habit of gratitude. In numerous interviews, he has relayed significant findings in health improvements like lowering stress hormones and decreased pain. Choosing to be grateful, rather than focusing on daily irritations, has health impacts just like healthier eating and going to the gym.

Gratitude has been proven to increase your self-esteem, strengthen your relationships, and improve outcomes in academic, athletic, and work performance. He outlines his perspective in a simple guide called “The Little Book of Gratitude: Create a Life of Happiness and well-being by Giving Thanks,” which can be found here.

But you don’t have to wait for books on gratitude to start a journey of Thanksgiving. Beginning now, you can pause and consider things for which you are grateful. But why is it so easy to mumble and grumble daily and so hard to be grateful unless we pause and reflect?

Don’t feel guilty, we all have difficulty focusing on the good at various times in our lives. The bottom line is that practicing a habit is important. And changing a habit tied to our personality can feel impossible. But we can all start small.

Today, choose one thing that you are grateful for. It may be something you own or a person you know. You can be grateful for anything: large or small, profound or seemingly insignificant. It all counts.

When I was in college, I was selected for an internship in Guest Services at the Walt Disney Company. I was elated to work for and learn from the industry leader in service. I imagined they would tell me what and how to wave a magic wand through a list of best practices and tasks. Instead, we were greeted by cast members in corporate attire who were living, breathing, walking smiley faces.

Disney Traditions, as onboarding and training was called, was the weirdest place I’d ever been. In my mind, cynicism was a reflection of my discernment and sarcasm was simply the wise application of my wit. I sort of wore it as a badge of honor.

So, I was certain there was no way you’d catch me wide-eyed and grinning at nothing more than the possibility of a “magical day.” As dumb as it sounds, it never occurred to me I’d need to alter my personality to work for the Mouse. I was so focused on learning from the best, that I wasn’t prepared for becoming the best.

I was proud of my quippy retorts in poking at their cheesy and positive dispositions in the classroom. “Give it two weeks, you’ll get it,” one of the trainers told me.

It actually didn’t take long at all. Within just a couple of days of being smiled at, I was smiling back. And within a couple more days of being offered help and direction, I was serving with a smile. The culture of my work environment was influencing my attitude and everything around me began to improve, especially my relationships.

But what do you do when you aren’t surrounded by Disney cast members? Here are four simple steps to influence yourself and cultivate a spirit of gratitude:

+ Pause and Ponder. If you can’t think of anything, breathe in deeply, be thankful you are alive, and start there. Then consider all the ways the thing you are grateful for impacts your life for the better. If you have too many distractions or are exhausted, get somewhere quiet or carve out time to rest. Pet a dog, walk on the beach, go somewhere without concrete.

+ Write it Big and Bright! If you are a visual person, write blessings on Post-it notes and scatter them everywhere you might see them. Keep a list in your notes section on your phone and pull it out when you are feeling despair. Keep a gratitude journal and add new things nightly before bed or in the a.m. before you start the day. Ask Alexa to give you a prompt that will remind you to practice gratitude or a list of specific things you want to be reminded to be grateful for. Can you hear it, “Good Morning, Dana, Don’t forget to be grateful you’re alive, you have a warm home, and Diet Coke is only $1.20 at Circle K.”

+ Sing it! Shout it! Tell us All About It! Verbalize your gratitude to the people you are grateful for. Write them a letter. Post it on their social media wall.

+ Be Good with Good Enough. Work on acceptance of the things you cannot change.

+ Keep the Fire Lit. Pick one thing today and think about it all day. Tomorrow, pick another thing to consider. Then the next day another. And another. And another. Turn the logs over and stoke the fire.

And just remember, don’t feel guilty if there’s something in your life you don’t like. It could be an indicator that it’s time for change or improvement. The goal is not to allow dissatisfaction or envy to rob you of good feelings and a positive outlook for your future.

I hope to write something I’m thankful for on social media every day for thirty days. Help hold me accountable and follow along here: https://www.facebook.com/danahof