You’d be better off if you had Thanksgiving every day.
Not the eating part. If you had a Thanksgiving feast every day you might end up extremely overweight. That wouldn’t be good for your health.
I’m referring to the giving thanks part of Thanksgiving, the part where people having the dinner together sometimes go around the table and tell everyone what they’re thankful for.
There’s nothing magical about gratitude but it’s like magic. Good magic. We can all use as much of the good kind of magic as we can get in our lives.
Gratitude gives you grace. It lightens the perception of your burdens. That’s the whole secret.
Saying it lightens your perception of your burdens is a simple idea. It’s simple but profound. If it was simple and easy to understand everybody would be going around happy all the time. That’s not the case
You have a mental scale in your mind. On one side there are the good things. On the other side, there are the bad things.
People have a tendency to fear and mourn over losses more than gains. Gratitude helps you balance the scales.
If you feel blessed, it’s hard to be depressed.
If tattoos are your thing, you may want to make this reminder your next tattoo. It’s worth remembering.
If not a tattoo, a note on your bathroom mirror or another prominent place could suffice.
Have a five-minute gratitude session every day. You don’t have to set a clock and space out five minutes and be literal about taking five minutes. Five minutes is colloquial for meaning “just a little time.” You can call it a meditation, if you like. It’s more like a “thinkcation,” a brief respite from too much pessimism.
It’s the tare.
The tare. In order to accurately weigh something, you need to separate out what you don’t want to include in the final weight. For example, if you wanted to know the weight of some screws, you’d put the screws in a box and weigh that. If you wanted to know the actual weight of the screws, you’d have to know the weight of the box so you could subtract it from the final number. That number that doesn’t get counted toward the weight of the screws is the tare.
Problems are a weight. They often offset by positives. The positives have to be accounted for, however. In order to do that, you’ve got to get counting.
It’s nothing but science.
A thinkcation in Gratefulville, pop. 1
The important thing is you actually count your blessings.
Doing it is many different things. It’s self-defense. It’s therapy. It’s maintenance. It’s important because it prevents your brain from falling into a rut. A rut like that is a trap.
It’s point and counterpoint. Many of us find ourselves surrounded by negativity more than positivity. Your five-minute gratitude meditation is a vacation from this negativity.
It’s sublime joy.
When you memorize something, you’re wearing paths between neurons.
When you wallow in negativity, you’re doing the same thing. Your five-minute gratitude meditation (that doesn’t actually have to be five minutes long) avoids this. It gives your brain a new mental track to explore.
How to think of what to be grateful for
When I come up with my five things, the first five things I remember are pretty important. I think about my family, my home, and I rejoice I live in a safe city, there’s opportunity for me and my family, that I have enough to eat. I can go on and on. They’re big things. I think of them quickly.
However, it’s good to put a little effort into this, to work to come up with something besides the things you’re most grateful for. Work the idea of remembering and recalling all you have to be grateful for.
Play with the idea of what you’re grateful for. The point of this exercise, the whole reason for this bit of mental medicine, is you put these things in the front of your mind at least once in the course of the day.
Thinking about what you have to be grateful for is not a new idea. People have thought about what they’re grateful for, for years.
The whole thing that makes it really important is doing this becomes a necessary counterbalance to so much despair infesting our world.
Today, it’s really important, probably more than ever.
We could go on and on about why this is.
It’s probably worth a book or two, for starters.
It’s probably not necessary to buy and read such a book, however. Not if you pay attention to the major points about why this might be.
We’re steeped in pessimism
We’re like teabags steeping in hot water. The hot water plus us makes pessimistic tea, a bitter drink.
The news is always pessimistic recently. Over the years people have found it’s a good idea to stay abreast of what’s going on in the world. You want to know what your local, state, and federal government is doing. What your stores have on sale. What new things are coming out? What changing economic conditions might affect your job.
Over the past decade or so, however, the media has changed gradually but substantially. It’s easier and cheaper and more profitable to create content based on opinion. To make something opinion-based, all you have to do is come up with a statement, a way to say what’s on your mind.
These things don’t have to be terribly original or clever to be published. The opinions are reflexive, more indicative of the animal brain.
Even coming up with a weak study, to find out if something is marginally true takes more work than a quick opinion.
Analyzing something in a half-assed way takes more work than a reflexive opinion.
That’s why there are far fewer half-assed analyses than solid studies!
Say I’m someone worried about all of the migrants from Central America coming to the United States. I’m concerned about where they’re going to work. I’m concerned because a lot of them are children.
To have an opinion about all this, right off the cuff, all I’ve got to do is hear about what’s going on and think of a reaction. There’s a bonus if I can make it really interesting.
To actually find out what’s going on would entail talking to the refugees themselves in Spanish, to the Border Patrol agents, and to the people working in social services. Then I’d have to look at the statistics being compiled.
The more you can give short shrift to the work of building an informed opinion, the quicker you can produce an article.
The quicker you produce an article, the sooner it can be posted.
The sooner it can be posted, the sooner it can be shared.
The sooner it’s shared, the stronger the signals are to the search engines that it’s a “valuable” article.
The more valuable the article, the more it’s worth to the company that produced it.
Under these rules, opinion beats fact almost every time.
Pessimism sounds more intelligent than optimism
Most of the time, that is.
If you want your optimistic chirp to be taken seriously, you’ve really got to work at it. Your reasoning needs to be solid. Your understanding of perception and communication needs to be spot on.
Sometimes being optimistic is easier than communicating a balanced analysis. That’s because, deep down, most people want to have a reason to rejoice. When you’re exploring both sides of the issue, you’re not promoting any hormone release. Your audience isn’t getting any kick from their self-made drugs like serotonin or cortisol. You’re leading them through their mind and that’s b-o-r-i-n-g for many people. Bless you for trying!
But back to how smart you sound when you’re being pessimistic.
You can always come up with knee-jerk superficial reasons for your pessimism pretty and that sounds like certainty. Being confident sounds like you’re intelligent.
You need shared, unbiased facts with which to be able to draw confident conclusions for optimism. That doesn’t happen so much these days because to do so takes time for analysis. Attention spans have fallen. The emphasis is on quick reactions. You can be worried about the killing of minority offenders by police, merely focused on skin color, and totally miss the statistics that show more whites are killed. Whatever the truth of the situation is, you’re going to miss it because of the rush to publish.
So without these shared unbiased facts and reflection what you’ve got is one pessimistic data point after another.
We start out optimistic about all kinds of ventures. These expectations are difficult to maintain because “no plan survives contact with the enemy.”
You need to make an effort to counterbalance this. Bless you for that as well.
We value free things less
Another reason to make a specific effort to think of five things to be grateful for is we value free things less. Some of the most common things we’re going to be most grateful for are often free in our lives.
Well, maybe they’re not free, but they’re a public good. They’re free to us, or we often haven’t directly paid for them.
A lot of us have clean air, clean water, and a roof over our head.
We’ve had good parents, good friends, and nice pets.
The point is unless you make an effort to acknowledge this, at least to yourself, you’re likely to forget how lucky you are to have these things.
Just because they’re free doesn’t mean they don’t have a value. If you didn’t have them, you’d definitely pay a price to have them.
A daily five-minute gratitude meditation ensures they’re not completely overlooked.
Internalizing positive thoughts
Opinion is much easier to express in whatever media than an attempt at fact. Facts need to be substantiated in reality. That takes time.
The rush to publish means actual facts get sublimated.
It’s also harder to synthesize and analyze than it is to come up with a knee-jerk opinion.
It’s easy to sound intelligent when you take a pessimistic opinion on anything. When you sound intelligent, you sound credible. Period.
That’s not to say you should never be pessimistic about anything. Rather, you should analyze and come to a balanced conclusion, not automatically be pessimistic about the future.
You can take an active hand in thinking positively by thinking of five things every day. This is a way of fighting the mood of the day, the way the game is stacked against optimism. Yes, they call it meditation, but that’s so ostentatious. All meditation is, is thinking.
If you think more is better in this area, feel free to pursue it. Overwhelm your brain with positivity. Overdose on it. Blow your mind with how blessed you are so much so that you feel compelled to lay down on the floor laughing deliriously.
Do that if you feel it will do you some good.
Remember, however, that this is more about mindset. I’d rather have you do this every day rather than having a gratitude-a-thon once and forget about it.
I mean in the United States we have Thanksgiving, a day dedicated to thinking about how lucky we are. Yet depression still rises.
The secret is consistency.
Make this thinkcation a daily hit of something good.
Like you could walk outside at your favorite vacation spot and stick your toe in the lake, ocean, mountain stream, and then go back.
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