Robert Marx, Co-Lead for the Sussex Mindfulness Centre shares his experience of holding on to Thanksgiving traditions he learned as a child, and the benefits of being thankful for the small things in life.
This week is Thanksgiving. When I lived in the United States, this was my favourite festival: a meal with family and friends like at Christmas, but without all the stress of buying presents.
During the meal, everyone would say something that they were grateful for, echoing the early Pilgrims who gave thanks for the harvest and for what the year had brought.
I liked this tradition so much I have continued it with my family in the UK. Most evenings, we try to remember to each say something we feel grateful for from the day, practicing being thankful for the small things in life. This can counter our ‘negativity bias’, a hardwired tendency to focus on threats to increase our chances of survival. The negativity bias might help manage problems, but it doesn’t make us any happier.
Sometimes, we can think there wasn’t really anything we appreciated or enjoyed about the day, but often that is because we have been looking for the big things.
In mindfulness practice, we learn to pay attention to the small details: the taste of our cup of tea, the unexpectedly supportive email, the feeling of November sunshine, the smile of the person at the till in the shop. If we tune into this kind of thing, it doesn’t cost time or money, and it can lift our mood.
Often, we come up with reasons why we don’t want to do this: we have more important things to do, we feel we shouldn’t ignore the difficult things in life, or this just isn’t the kind of person I am.
This fixed belief in how things are or who we are gives us a reassuring sense of certainty but can limit so many other possibilities. Gratitude doesn’t mean we deny or ignore all the problems or jobs that need to be done.
They will still be there but we might have a bit more energy for them if we approach them with an appreciative mind.
To develop your mindfulness and gratitude practice, you can always find a range of retreats, from one-day to five, led by the Sussex Mindfulness Centre on this page.
Many thanks to Brighton and Hove Independent, for allowing us to repost this article.