Why Being Thankful Is The Key To Happiness

I know someone who hates Thanksgiving. I asked how in the world he could hate a holiday that is all about getting together with friends and family to eat and then lie around fat and happy all day. He responded that it’s horrible how we celebrate a tradition that began with persecuting Native Americans. You know what the difference is between the two of us? Perspective. You know what perspective I choose? A thankful one.

It really is a choice. I can be arrogant and ungrateful in any and all situations. Or I can be humble and thankful. This Thanksgiving, I want to focus on gratitude and blessings and the love God continues to give me every single day. 

Why is it important to adopt this attitude? Because being thankful produces a healthier mindset, a more positive outlook, and a greater recognition that none of us are entitled to anything. “Blessed, not entitled,” is a much more humble approach to life and God’s graces than finding the negative in everything.  

This Thanksgiving, if you haven’t done so in the past, I encourage you to take time at your dinner table to express what you are grateful for. Yes, it might elicit some groans, and rightfully so, given that 2020 hasn’t exactly been a bright spot in our lives. But I can guarantee that it will also elicit insights and perhaps wonderful responses you hadn’t even considered. 

We do it every year. I wait with anticipation to hear what each person sitting at my table has to say. I’m always surprised. Inevitably someone says something I hadn’t even thought about. And what they are thankful for also tells me much about them. Some say family, some good health, some that we’re all together. Some mention a new job, or a new pet, or an old friend. But everyone is thankful, usually for multiple blessings.

As I think about what I might say when it comes my turn at the dinner table this year, the answer doesn’t come easily. This year was an especially tough one, and not just because of the pandemic. My dad had to be moved into a memory care facility where my mom could not visit until just before he passed away a few months later. My daughter’s dreams to pursue a new career were halted when she couldn’t get into the country where she was supposed to work. With no car and nowhere to live, she moved back home with us to ride out a pandemic that is still raging. My son got Covid and wasn’t able to attend his grandfather’s memorial service. Work has dried up and we’ve taken one financial hit after another. And on and on and on.

But then I think about this: God has protected our love. Our family is close, sharing everything, supporting one another, constantly texting and calling and sending photos and videos. As much as we’ve lost financially, we’ll be okay. We know that if we keep donating, keep giving to our church and all its missions and outreach, God will bless us as He always has. We are in good health and have discovered that we can work out at home just as hard as we used to at the gym. Being at home more has caused us to look inward, to ask if what we are doing now is what we want to keep doing. Introspection is good, and 2020 has given us plenty of time for it.

And although it took me a minute to lay aside the bad and concentrate on the good, once I started, it became easy. One thought led to another, all positive, all warm, all with the sense that despite everything that was thrown at us this year, God gave us the strength to overcome. He taught us lessons we might not have learned any other way. My lack of work gave me time to visit with my dad in the final months of his life, priceless time I will never, ever regret. The slower pace gave us time as a family, time as a married couple to reconnect and do those projects we’d put off for years. I could go on, but you get the point.

As you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I hope it truly is a celebration of all you have to be thankful for. Sure, you can find a million things to complain about. Or you can close your eyes, humble yourself, and feel God’s love. I choose love.

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Rebecca Deurlein
Rebecca Deurlein

Rebecca Deurlein is the author of Teenagers 101: What a top teacher wishes you knew about helping your kid succeed, and President of Teenager Success 101, a one-on-one academic coaching company dedicated to helping kids find success. She blogs and writes internationally, speaks to parents across the nation, and loves every minute of living in Sugar Land, TX. Find her on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Huffington Post, or through her own blog A Teacher’s Guide to Understanding Teenagers. All can be accessed at www.TeenagerSuccess101.com.