For some, the Thanksgiving season evokes feelings of happiness and love, but for others, Thanksgiving can be a harsh reminder of the empty chairs, both literally and symbolically, that are present in our lives. During certain seasons of our lives, it can be hard to feel grateful for what little we feel like we have. To help us find gratefulness in our hearts, let’s look at 7 ways to be thankful when you feel like you can’t be.
1. Serve Others
I have found that serving others helps me put my own trials into perspective. It doesn’t feel like it makes sense, but I promise it does. When you take the time to look around you and notice the struggles of others, you realize you are not the only one who has trials.
In 2017, Time published an article titled The Secret to Happiness Is Helping Others which explains that there is scientific evidence that supports the idea that giving is a gateway to both personal growth and long-lasting happiness.
Service takes on many forms. Service can be done by simply giving a genuine compliment or offering a smile to a stranger, or something that requires more preparation, such as serving a meal at a hospital or giving out bagged meals to the homeless. Another one of my favorite past-times during the Thanksgiving season is to handwrite thank-you notes. Writing thank-you notes helps me remember all of the wonderful people in my life and all they have done for me.
2. Surround Yourself With Others
When you do not have immediate family nearby to celebrate with, it is easy to think you are alone. Don’t let yourself believe this! Invite over your friends who feel like family for your Thanksgiving feast. Or, look around your community and see if there are others who are in need of a family to spend the holiday with. Help them realize they too are not alone.
3. Find the Joy in the Little Things
Although you may feel like there are not big things in your life that you can be thankful for, I would encourage you to be thankful for the tender mercies we see every day of our lives. Taking time to be grateful for the simple things, which are often overlooked, such as modern technology, running water, and clothing will help remind us how many simple things we have to be thankful for.
For me, I find joy in the small moments like when I shuffle my music and one of my favorite songs comes on, or when I randomly pick out a blue Sour Patch Kid (my favorite), or when I see a dog enjoying a walk. Recognizing the small moments which bring us joy is a simple way to remind ourselves of all of the good we are surrounded by.
Pro Tip: During the month of November, I like to write down a list of things I am grateful for each night in a gratitude journal. Writing in a gratitude journal helps me recognize every day all of the things I have to be grateful for. It helps me focus each day on recognizing the good, instead of focusing on my trials.
4. Be Thankful for You
This can be a tough tip to want to follow, especially in times of trial, but hear me out. Regardless of your infirmities, you have a body. You are able to experience life in this body. The spirit that inhabits this body is constantly learning, developing, and growing. Be grateful for what your body can do, rather than looking at things we wish we could change.
As we learn in Matthew 25, God has blessed each of us with various talents. It is important to recognize what these talents are and continue to develop them. Take a moment to sit down and ask God to remind you of your many gifts. Then, list out these God-given talents and your favorite things about yourself. Start with five things. Take that list and continue to grow it. Hang it up somewhere you will see it every day. Remind yourself of the many qualities you have been blessed with and chose to be thankful for them.
5. Read Uplifting Material
There are countless talks out there about being grateful. To help prepare myself for the Thanksgiving season, I try and read a talk a day about gratitude. One of my favorite talks is called Grateful in Any Circumstances by Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. One of my favorite things which he said was:
“Those who set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitude can find a purifying drink of healing, peace, and understanding.”
How beautiful is that! By being thankful, we can find relief from our trials. Some countless other talks and forums also focus on gratefulness and offer more wisdom on this topic.
6. Celebrate Your Victories, Big or Small
Every day, we accomplish things, big or small. Some days we need to celebrate the tiniest of things that took a lot of motivation, such as getting out of bed, brushing your hair, or eating a meal. While this may seem silly, it is important to recognize what you have accomplished. Not everyone can see or will understand how certain days, doing the seemingly basic things is actually a huge victory. Be gentle with yourself.
This is also a wonderful opportunity to reflect on all you have accomplished thus far in this lifetime. Take the time to be thankful for previous trials that have made you the person you are now and for the lessons learned.
7. Pray for a Thankful Heart
I have found that one of the biggest things that has helped me when I find it hard to be thankful is to turn to God. We can pray for a grateful heart, hoping to find more things that we can be thankful for. Pray for the eyes to see the good things in our lives. We can also pray to be His hands. Pray for opportunities to serve those around you.
We are instructed to become like Jesus Christ as we progress on this earth. Jesus constantly served others, specifically those who couldn’t serve Him back. We should look for opportunities to lift others and bring them closer to Christ.
There is a story that tells about a statue of Jesus Christ which was damaged during a bombing in World War II. When the townspeople found the statue, they realized the hands of the statue had been so severely damaged, they could not be restored. Some wanted to hire a sculptor to make new hands, but they ultimately left the statue as is. A small adjustment was made the base of the statue – a sign was added with the words: “You are my hands.” Let us ask and pray to be His hands.
Sometimes it feels as though we can’t shut out our problems to focus on what we can be thankful for. Having gratitude during the Thanksgiving season is sometimes hard, but it is not impossible.