ThanksLIVING – A Year-Round State of Mind

What a difference one letter makes!

Rather than focusing on one day a year for giving thanks – which often gets blended with football and naps — I like to think of ThanksLIVING as an endless season.

Unlike other traditions, the season of ThanksLIVING has no beginning or end. It’s rooted in the spirit of gratitude that can occur all year long.

Taking Creative License

My license plate says LIVE. People ask me if it’s pronounced like the word “alive” or whether it rhymes with the word “give.” My original concept was the latter, although they’re really interchangeable concepts.

It reminds me to live fully now – that this is not a dress rehearsal. That’s how I came up with the ongoing title of my column, “Live Life Fully.”

Sometimes I take notice of the license plate in my daily rounds, and sometimes it fades into the background. I just find that its visibility helps to keep me conscious of my intention to live fully.

Not Feeling the Love?

You may be so overwhelmed by circumstances in your life – or the world at large – that you don’t feel like counting your blessings.

And then you can end up feeling guilty about not being more grateful. Go ahead and wallow in your pain. Once you’ve had your time in the valley, start crawling back up to the peak (or at least the line of scrimmage).

Look at the things that are going RIGHT. If you always focus on what’s wrong – or all the things you don’t have – you can wind up feeling a sense of lack. And that’s what will likely continue to show up for you.

As the saying goes, “be careful what you wish for.” You may not think you’re “wishing” when you continue to stay in the valleys. However, it’s a universal principle. Whatever you dwell on – and attach strong emotion to – is likely to manifest in your life.

While you can’t control all the events in your life, you CAN control your reactions to those events.

Coming To Your Senses

It’s so easy to take things for granted and to sleepwalk through life. And then you get jolted by a wakeup call – a medical report, illness or death of someone close to you.

To put things into perspective, think of the stories of newly released hostages. They’re so grateful for the green grass and blue sky. It’s as if they see colors more vividly and smell aromas more intensely.

Maybe they’ve “come to their senses” through being deprived of these everyday wonders – whereas our senses have been dulled by the overabundance of such exposure. And then we catch ourselves complaining about trivial things like a traffic jam or the line at the grocery checkout.

Of course, it’s impossible to stay in a state of euphoria all the time. Life is full of contrasts, and we all have our ups and downs. I’m just saying that an ongoing consciousness of ThanksLIVING may help.

Past, Present and Future

I often wonder why feelings of gratitude are so fleeting. You know — like when you have the flu and all you want is to get your health back? The first few hours of feeling better, there’s a sense of relief. And then you plunge right back into your preoccupied thoughts and “to do” lists. What’s up with that?

No doubt it would be nice to have those “heart space” feelings of gratitude last a bit longer, while diminishing the endless chatter in your head. Generally, this chatter revolves around the past or the future. And that means you’re missing the present.

So, if you find yourself continuously thinking about something in the past – or jumping ahead to plan every detail of the future – stop and bring yourself into an awareness of gratitude. That will bring you right back to the present moment.

Fake It Til You Make It?

Doesn’t gratitude need to arise organically – from an authentic place? Obviously, this is the most genuine way. However, you can also train yourself to develop your gratitude muscle.

Gratitude is a discipline. While it may sound rather mechanical, establishing a framework of gratitude requires repetition – just like any other habit.

I’ve found that the more I focus on things I’m grateful for, the more “goodies” start to show up in my life. I carry a mini spiral notebook in my purse so I can jot down things throughout the day. It’s actually a fun little exercise, and it helps me take notice of all the wonder around me.

Over time, this becomes a practice, a way of life. And, just like practicing an instrument, you can become better at being grateful as time goes on.

Rosebushes and Pennies

It’s all about awareness. When I get too wound up, I find it helpful to take a brief “time out.”

The other day I parked in a space that had a rosebush down the block. I made a point of walking to the rosebush and bending over – to literally “stop and smell the roses.” Whenever I find pennies on the ground, I stop and repeat an affirmation about prosperity and abundance in my life.

These playful actions only take a couple of minutes. Yet, I find they contribute greatly to my experience of being in the moment and “living life fully.” Random acts of kindness – to yourself and others – are actually demonstrations of gratitude.

You’ve Had the Power All Along

If I have one wish for you, it’s that you treat yourself with a little more kindness. Author Stephen Levine says to “treasure yourself.” In most cases, you’re doing the best you can.

Just be sure to pull over for those rosebushes!