Frequent readers of my online content might think I have it all together. I don’t, of course — but does anyone really? Still, I’ve had many people ask me how I stay so positive in the face of so many difficulties.
It’s not always easy, but I monitor my mindset daily, and I combat negative thoughts with perspective and insight. You can do the same by remembering all the reasons you have to give thanks, no matter how dire your circumstances.
So how can you get in the right headspace for 2020? By taking a moment to appreciate the people and things that make your life wonderful.
If you think of your child’s teacher as a glorified babysitter, think again. Teachers undergo countless hours of professional development to maintain their certification long after they graduate.
Teachers don’t merely mind your kids while you work, they educate them. Think about how thin your patience may wear sometimes with your children. Now imagine managing 40 of them, some of whom are tired and hungry, while trying to teach math. You’ll find ample reasons to thank a teacher today!
Beyond that, all of us can likely remember a teacher who made a difference in our lives. Whether it was grade school or college, academic professionals make an enormous impact on the way we think and act.
2. First Responders
What if you fell, you couldn’t get up, and no one answered the call of duty to take you to the hospital? First responders risk their lives daily to help others. In addition to responding to routine medical requests, they must report to active shooter situations and other tragedies that leave people broken mentally and physically.
This exposure to life’s unpleasant realities often takes a severe psychological toll on helpers. And hey, I get it. No one really wants to think about the possibility of a tragedy happening. However, if disaster strikes, I’m grateful to know that there are people who will help me clean up in the aftermath.
3. Health Care Workers
Multiple factors contribute to the high rate of nurse and doctor burnout in America. Nevertheless, the majority of health care providers continue to care for each patient they see with dignity and concern, even when they might have to face particularly difficult patients some days. I know everyone in my network deserves a hearty round of applause!
That’s a pretty popular sentiment, of course, and for good reason. I remember when my dad hurt his leg when lifting some heavy equipment. He needed around-the-clock care because it was a really serious injury. But when it was all said and done, he recovered quickly, and he’s grateful for the attention he received from the people taking care of him.
4. Everyday Angels
I lament that I rarely carry cash, and I try to keep a few dollars in the center console of my vehicle for sign holders along freeway ramps. I know all too well how even positive activities like leaving a domestic violence situation can render you homeless.
Did you know that most Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and many are one illness or layoff away from living on the streets? Nobody chooses to sleep rough, but until society rejects the “every person for themselves” attitude and realizes we’re all in this together, everyday angels who help without anyone asking them to deserve extra thanks.
How many times have you come home after a trying day to smile when Fido greets you at the door? Our pets give so much back to our lives, and they ask for little in return. Most are happy with food and water and a bit of affection. It doesn’t matter if you’re a dog or a cat person — pets can benefit your health in many ways. Give them a thank you by throwing them a fresh chew bone or catnip toy.
Now, it’s easy to make excuses after a long day at work. You don’t have the energy to run around the yard with your dog, I’ve been there. But you’ll likely find it’s fun and well worth the effort. I know that I always feel a little more animated when I see how happy my dog is.
Plants don’t only purify your indoor air, but they also provide you with food. You can often find courses in foraging wild foods through parks and recreation departments. While you almost certainly hope you never need this knowledge, it comes in handy in a pinch.
Additionally, you’ll learn more about what grows locally. If you’re blessed enough to have a small yard or even a sunny patio, you can plant a garden. Doing so helps the planet and saves you pennies at the grocer — two more reasons to give thanks!
Soaking in the sun’s rays feels good and doesn’t cost a dime. Getting outdoors, especially in the midday sun, for a few minutes, helps your body produce vitamin D the natural way. Plus, studies say getting moving in the fresh air boosts moods as effectively as antidepressants in some people.
I know one thing for a fact — I feel a hundred times better after a run or walk in the fresh air than I do sitting around the house. And yes, it’s a challenge to put on your shoes and go for a walk when you’d rather watch your favorite show. But once you’re outside, you’ll be thankful you took those first few steps.
8. Another Day
Many of us have looked into the abyss. During your darkest hours, what’s your prevailing thought?
With mindfulness practice, I’ve realized over time that while things couldn’t continue to get worse if I ended my life, nor could they ever get better. I couldn’t bring myself to abandon all hope that things could improve. I realized that only by waking up to the potential each new day brought could I take positive steps to effect change.
Do you know what? Things did improve for me. They’re not perfect — but I feel a thousand times happier. When you seek real help, and also strive to shift your focus from all the things you lack in life to counting your blessings, you may find you feel better despite your troubles.
Finding Meaning in Oft Overlooked Joys
When you shift your perspective to one of gratitude, you may notice your overall well-being benefits. Why not try to help yourself feel better today by giving thanks for something we all can appreciate more?
Kate Harveston is a journalist from Pennsylvania. She enjoys hiking, yoga and writing about health and wellness. If you enjoy her work, you can visit her blog, So Well, So Woman.
Image courtesy of Amandine Lerbscher.