Every Thanksgiving, as I sit at the dinner table surrounded by my and my husband’s family, someone suggests that we go around the table and say what we’re thankful for. And I laugh to myself. They may not remember that I started this tradition, many years ago, but I did. I used to be the one who insisted we do this, because I am a firm believer in having an attitude of gratitude. But over the years I got tired of the moans and groans that came from around the table, so I stopped suggesting it. And now every year someone else does. For that I am thankful!
I do think it’s a wonderful tradition, and I do like practicing the attitude of gratitude. I make a gratitude list nearly every day. I’ve found that I feel better, that my life seems better and even is better, when I’m grateful for all that I have. When I actively go out of my way to notice it all, call it out, and be thankful for it.
I’ve focused on having an attitude of gratitude for years. But more recently I stumbled upon the concept of gratitude as a practice. I don’t know if I thought of it myself, or read it somewhere, but it stuck with me. I’ve heard it well explained by Brenè Brown, who explains that “’having an attitude’ doesn’t always translate to behavior.” And that putting the attitude into action is what really matters. That “gratitude without practice may be a little like faith without works—it’s not alive.”
Gratitude is a practice because it’s something I can do (or not do) every day. I can actively choose to be grateful. To notice. To appreciate. Or I can not. I do feel better when I do. And sometimes I forget to anyway. But when I remember, I feel my spirit lift, a smile hit my face, my outlook get better – all these things when I chose to practice my gratitude. And still I sometimes forget.
But that’s okay, because eventually I remember. And someone else at the Thanksgiving table will remember for all of us – and ask us to share what we’re thankful for.