Deciding to be Thankful When My World is in Chaos

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When you are grateful – when you can see what you have – you unlock blessings to flow in your life.

-Suze Orman.

Even with thanksgiving and the holidays coming up, many of us aren’t feeling like celebrating during a pandemic. With multiple variables stressing us out, working our way into the holidays seems like some joke. Planning thanksgiving can be challenging enough, now planning it with safety concerns can seem almost impossible. I can only assume that there will be many empty seats at the table this year. Sadly, some people lost their loved ones, to others being cautious and staying away from their family and friends. This year more than ever, deciding to be thankful is a real challenge. When overwhelmed by bad news, anxiety, daily stressors, and life’s many curveballs, what is there to be grateful for exactly?

As Dr. Wayne Dyer is famous for saying, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” It’s useful when we are willing to change our views towards a more thankful lens, especially during the hard times. It’s easy to be thankful, grateful, and happy when all is going smoothly. The real test of our thankfulness comes in when life throws us challenges. At some point in our lives, we have to face ourselves and our reactivity to life’s pitfalls to become genuinely grateful people. We have to evaluate our beliefs—which doesn’t mean changing who we are but becoming more of who you are—and decide what type of person we want to be in the face of anxiety.

For me, I needed to change my beliefs and evaluate the things I was genuinely grateful for, and I’m not alone in this. Growing up in an instant-gratification-based culture, I inevitably thought that a stress-free life is the only good life. I came to understand that you can be thankful even when life doesn’t shower you with blessings. However, if we are honest with ourselves, most of the time, we aren’t walking around thinking about how fortunate we are for the good things going on in our lives, even when things are pretty great. I am generally not a complainer, though sometimes I find myself lost in the negatives of life that I forget about the good. All of us have struggles that seem impossible to bear at times, though we also have blessings that can quickly go overlooked.

If anything, living in a pandemic has taught us that we get used to our circumstances while forgetting the overall picture of how good we have it. That’s why it’s essential to take a moment to appreciate what you already have, what you have achieved, and how far you have come. It’s a shame to have so much beauty if we don’t take a moment to look around and truly see what is there already.

It’s like the saying, “It’s not happy people who are grateful. It’s grateful people who are happy.” I know plenty of people with great fortunes in their lives—and I’m not talking only about money; I’m talking about family, friends, health, and freedom—who are not only ungrateful but just plain miserable. Just as gratefulness is a choice, so is misery.

No matter who you are, where you come from, or your status, it’s easy to forget to be grateful for what you have. We’re always looking for the next best thing, wanting what other people have so badly that we become blind to what’s right in front of us every single day. It’s hard to admit, but I daydream about my pre-pandemic life daily. I don’t know if I truly appreciated how good I had it.  But I now know that the secret to happiness doesn’t mean having a perfect life. The secret is being happy, grateful, and thankful for the stuff you already have, and living in the present, accepting things as they are. It’s lovely to thrive for a less stressful environment and life, as long as you remain in a place of gratefulness every moment along the journey toward getting there. You have to live in this moment, not tomorrow or yesterday. Be okay with what you have now. Think about it. What are you thankful for this year?

Get a copy of my new book “Anxious for Answers: The surprising truth about anxiety, and how you can master it for good!”

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Talk soon,

Dr. Ilene

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