It's American Thanksgiving, which although a month later than my (Canadian) Thanksgiving is great because it gives us more excuses for turkey (but mostly stuffing. Yay!!) and a great excuse to think about being present and thankful for what we have in our lives.
(c National Geographic Kids)
Fit & happy is about choosing to be happy and making time to be healthy. I'm a big believer in the idea that happiness is a choice and the more you look for the things in your life to feel thankful about, the happier you'll be with everything in general. So when I was reading last weekend and came across this article from the New York Times called 'Choose to be grateful. It will make you happier' I had to have a read. And it's perfect!
The author talks about whether it's genuine to celebrate Thanksgiving if you don't feel thankful. Should you 'pretend'? Should you force it? What good will it do? Is there science behind the idea that you can make yourself happier by 'acting' thankful? The answers are yes, yes, yes, a lot and yes. My short thoughts on that are: if you're safe and warm in a house and have a meal in front of you, you have at least three things to be thankful for that a lot of people in the world don't at this very moment. You might have a lot of other shit going on--you might have lost your job, or be going through a divorce or someone you love might be ill--but getting through those things with your sanity intact and your future happiness have a lot to do with having the mental strength to try to see the things to be grateful for, no matter how small.
It's not easy -- it requires training your brain, and time -- but choose to do it in the moment and it definitely gets easier to spot the small happinesses over time. It's not like anyone expects you to be happy or thankful ALL the time. That would be insane and/or require some kind of amazing recreational drugs! I'm definitely up for an occasional rant about frustrations or things that piss me off or haven't gone the way I wanted (Mr F / many of my friends can definitely attest to that). But when I've finished the cathartic rant or am done feeling pissed off, I generally try to force myself to take a step back and think 'Okay, so what? So what if that person did that thing at work/on the tube/on the street today? You have a job/the tube is pretty awesome/not everyone on the street is a jerk, and life is pretty cool most of the time.' A glass of wine often helps with this process ;)
And sure, those are small examples. It's definitely harder when it comes to big things. Five years ago one of the most special people in my life passed away on Christmas Eve and he LOVED Christmas. And he had suffered with cancer for a long, long time. And he was one of the best people I knew and he was too young it was all so fucking unfair. But I had got to be home in Canada to see him before he passed away and say goodbye, and those of us who were left behind were together and could try to comfort each other, and I remember thinking that I was grateful for that, too.
There's a great quote in the article about the practice of gratitude: 'It’s science, but also common sense: Choosing to focus on good things makes you feel better than focusing on bad things.' That Christmas was a good example of that. I know, looking back, that I would have felt a whole lot shitter and sadder if I hadn't been able to be there with family and acknowledge that.
There are three steps the article recommends in the process of learning to be grateful.
Number one is internal gratitude: think of things you're grateful for in your head. Have you got one? Okay, next...
Number two is exterior gratitude: being grateful and expressing it publicly. Here's mine: I am grateful to Elle of Keep It Simpelle for introducing me to the world of the London Bloggers network a year ago! I'm not sure I would have kept blogging and I definitely wouldn't have learned so much without the tips and support of her and the other bloggers I've met through it.
And the last one, number three, is being thankful for trivial things. I'd never thought about this one before the article and now that I've read about it, I'm trying to incorporate it into my daily routine. The author's examples are really random and very, very insignificant (the spots on a trout!). Which is kind of hard to match. What random, trivial thing are you grateful for today? I choose zippers. Where would we be without them, especially now that the weather's cold?!
It doesn't sound that hard, which is deceiving, but hopefully the article gave you some ideas on how to incorporate gratitude today, in honour of Thanksgiving, and in the future. It's all a learning and a practice. Good luck!
What are you grateful for today? What do you think about gratitude, can it actually make you a happier person?