As much as I love Christmas and New Years and everything that comes along with the holiday season, I enjoy Thanksgiving just as much, not because of the food, the time with family, and the Black Friday sales, but because of its focus on gratitude. We all do a good job remembering all the things we have to be thankful for around Thanksgiving, but as November turns to December and we mentally change gears for the upcoming set of holidays, sometimes, the focus on gratitude fades away and we revert back into old ways of thinking. This month, I have been reminded just how important it is to give thanks all year long. Gratitude is good for the soul and honestly, it’s contagious. The gift of gratitude is one of the best things we can give our families this holiday season as we strive to be positive and remember the Reason for the season.
I usually look forward to November. While our July and August are typical anxiety-filled and September and October are marked by moving and learning a new environment, for me, November means stability. November means getting comfortable and accustomed to my new normal as I settle into a routine. This year was a little different. At the beginning of November, after weeks of living out of suitcases first in Atlanta, then in Indianapolis, then back in Atlanta, we were finally able make our way to our new temporary home for the basketball season. If you know me, you know that I thrive on being organized. Living out of suitcases is not ideal for me and I honestly felt like I couldn’t breathe every time I would have to go into my luggage for a specific item only to come back out with everything but what I was looking for. I was drowning in disorganization and uncertainty and craving just a taste of structure, so when it was time to make the 10-hour drive up to our new home, I was excited just to get there, settle in, and get unpacked.
Well, of course, nothing ever goes as planned and I arrived to find that we would be living in a hotel for a day or two while our apartment was under construction. A day or two turned into a few days and a few days turned into a week in a hotel with 6 pieces of luggage and a dog. It was crowded, to say the least, and I was uncomfortable, but I resolved myself to focus on the good instead of the bad. Every time I caught myself having a negative thought about how cramped the room was, I replaced it with “at least my husband, my dog, and I are all together,” or, “this room is still WAY bigger that the hotel room my husband and I shared in Japan with the same amount of luggage.” Every time it would cross my mind how much I wanted a full-sized refrigerator and an oven so that I could cook I would change my thinking to, “there are a lot of good restaurants around here that we’re getting to try.” Every time I would find myself being negative, I would find something, anything that I was grateful for, and think about that instead.
Almost a week into our extended hotel stay, my husband said something to me that made me think. “Thank you for being so positive about our current circumstances,” he said, “I’ve expected you to lose it more than once and you’ve been so nice about everything. How you’ve handled everything has kept me from getting upset about it myself.” You see, I knew that I was handling things differently than I usually would, but I didn’t think that anyone else noticed. This is why I say that gratitude is contagious and, by the same token, negativity is contagious as well.
Philippians 4:6 is a verse that, as someone that deals with anxiety, is highlighted in my Bible with every color in the rainbow. It reads, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God” (emphasis mine). Whenever I would find myself dwelling on the bad, I would think of this scripture. I would thank God for something positive about my situation while I prayed for Him to fix the negative. Honestly, as I started searching for the positive, I realized just how much positive there was to be thankful for. My husband and I were together, we had our dog with us, we were in America with English speakers and familiar restaurants and stores, and, although we had to be patient, we were moving into a brand-new apartment that the team was paying for. Not only did practicing gratitude make me a much happier person, but it also made me easier to be around. Instead of being a nagging wife constantly asking when we were moving and what was taking so long, I was able to be what my husband needed me to be: a beacon of light and positivity to remind him just how blessed we truly are.
As we prepare for the holiday season, this year, I challenge you to give your family and friends the gift of gratitude. Be an example of what positive thinking and thanksgiving can do to both your mind and your spirit. I guarantee you that your loved ones will see a difference, and they will jump on the bandwagon and pass it on themselves. The practice of expressing gratitude is the best gift that you can give, not only to yourself, but to those around you. Give the gift of gratitude and watch your world begin to change.