Practicing Thankfulness: It’s not just for Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving upon us, it seems like the perfect opportunity to place some well- deserved focus on practicing thankfulness and cultivating an attitude of gratitude.

pumpkin and coffeeFor us, as moms, this practice has probably taken a back seat. I mean, sure we say, “thank you” when someone holds the door for us. We jump for joy when our child poops on the potty, or we get a little bounce in our step when someone pays for our drink at Starbucks, but what I’m talking about is living daily (sometimes hourly) with a grateful heart. Being grateful when life is going along as planned is easy, but finding opportunities to be grateful when you feel like the walls are closing in around you is a little more difficult.

Having a grateful mindset is something that is learned and practiced. Many times it does not come naturally, but training your mind to find the positives in everyday life can lead to some wonderful physical benefits, as well as boosting your mental clarity. Practicing a thankful mindset has been shown to lower stress, lower blood pressure, and lead to better sleep. (I mean, who doesn’t want that?)

I have found that the longer I practice thankfulness, the more it has felt like it’s always been a natural part of my life. In addition, practicing this when things seem to be going well has helped me to put this mindset into high gear when I’m feeling at the end of my rope. (We’ve all been there.) Practicing thankfulness can take many forms, and these are just some of the ways that I have tried to train myself to see the small everyday blessings.

Write a Letter: Is there someone who has made a difference in your life? Someone that has gone out of their way to brighten your day or make your child’s day more manageable? Write them a letter. It doesn’t have to be long or take a ridiculous amount of time, but just take a moment to let this person know what a blessing they have been in your life. We all love getting handwritten notes, and it is a wonderful way to practice a thankful mindset.

A Gratitude Journal: Write it out … cute, colorful pens help! Sometimes these words will come so easily, like when your husband is promoted at his job, or a family member receives some positive health news. Other times, these words will be more difficult to find. These are the times that you sit in quiet and think about your day and all of the things that happened. First, you woke up…right? Well, there ya go! Something to be thankful for! Start small with just a couple of things and as this practice become more natural, you will find that the words just flow from your brain to the page. A gratitude journal will not change what is going on in your life, but will definitely change the way you respond to it. Thankfulness leads to joy.

Moment of Prayer & Gratitude Before Bed: You have finally wrangled your children into bed and you can’t wait to have some quiet time to yourself. This is the perfect time to spend a couple minutes thanking God for your day and ALL that it entailed. Everything. The good. The bad. The hard. The monotonous. All of it. “Thank you for the snow! Even though I don’t like the cold weather, I’m so thankful for a warm house.” “Thank you for the sweet elderly man that I met at Target today. He seemed lonely and I’m thankful that my schedule allowed for some time to chat together.” “I’m thankful for Shelby’s ‘C’ on her test today. Even though I know that she was disappointed in herself, she did her best and I am so proud of her for that.” Just a couple minutes will change the course of your sleep … I promise.

I have found that even in the darkest valleys, there is always something to be thankful for. You may not see it right there, but when you take a step back and look in the rearview mirror, you will see it as plain as day. Living with a thankful mindset has helped me to see that even the smallest blessing gave me something to be thankful for, and sometimes those small things were actually the most important.

Kim has been married to her husband, Jeff for 26 years and they have two grown children. Jacob (their Christmas day baby) is 23 and their daughter Shelby is 20. Kim was born and raised in the NW suburbs of Chicago where she developed her love for Lake Michigan and all things 80's. Kim has her degrees in El. Ed. and E.C. Special Education from KU (Rock Chalk) and for the past 24 years, she has served as a Preschool Director in the K.C area. With grown children, Kim's mom gig has changed a bit. Less laundry and fewer carpools, but more impromptu shopping trips and travel. "Kids sure grow up fast, but the journey only gets sweeter. I still love being called, mom".