Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so lately I’ve been asking Boulder City residents what they’re thankful for. Responses have included waffles, hugs, real grass, ice skating, friends, Jesus, back massages, fall weather, good jobs, dedicated coaches, a talented art teacher, cousins, pets, the Constitution, practically perfect sisters, mom, a hair dresser and more.
You and I are much happier when our hearts are full of thanksgiving. Studies show that being grateful helps us sleep better, feel more alive, have stronger immune systems and even look better. But we don’t need scientific proof. We all know from experience that grateful people are generally friendlier, happier, healthier and even more attractive to us. In fact, it’s impossible to be resentful, mean-spirited or bitter when we’re grateful. And I don’t need to tell you which type of person is more enjoyable to be around.
Developing an attitude of gratitude has many other benefits as well.
Sincerely giving thanks not only reflects, but also positively affects, the way we think and feel about life. Attitude is an integral part of gratitude — an uplifting, exalting way of looking at life.
Of course, gratitude isn’t something we’re born with. Rather, it’s a choice. We can (and should) choose to be thankful regardless of our circumstances.
The following are a few helpful hints that can help us all choose to be grateful more often.
First, develop the habit of looking up instead of down. Ever notice that most people today are constantly looking down, even while walking or driving? We love to look down at our emails, text messages and Instagrams. Plus, the daily news feeds us a steady stream of downers, constantly telling us everything that’s wrong with the world.
It’s better to look upward, outward and even heavenward. Strategically placing art on our walls, pick-me-up notes on light fixtures and other sky-high reminders can really make a difference. In the process, you might even see a glorious sunset like the one I’m looking at right now. And that’s sure to spawn a thankful heart.
Next, make lists of all the people you’re thankful for and all the fulfilling experiences in your life. Who has changed you for the better, and why are they special to you? All of us have family members, friends, co-workers, teachers and mentors who have touched our lives in positive ways.
Also, what experiences, both pleasant and trying, have refined or made you stronger? Go back to your earliest recollections and make sure your lists are open-ended so that you can add to them later when you remember more or encounter new people and experiences.
Remembering and observing exercises like these lift our self-esteem, add light to our perspective and engender gratitude in our lives.
Incidentally, you have my permission to look down once in a while to write letters, notes, emails and text messages of appreciation to those special someones who have assisted you in any way.
Third, press pause once a day to count and chronicle your many blessings. Keeping a gratitude journal or creating a tender mercies board is a good way to do this. Also, if you pray, then periodically try offering a 100 percent gratitude-only prayer. When you spend 10 minutes straight not asking for anything but instead only giving thanks, you’ll be surprised how long your list of blessings really is.
Even if you don’t pray, you can still do the same thing while pausing to ponder or meditate. Ask yourself: Where did I see a miracle today? What happened that I’m thankful for? How were even my challenges and hardships a blessing in disguise? Daily remembering and memorializing blessings helps us develop an attitude of gratitude.
Finally, forgive early and often. Grudges and offenses are like deadly snake venom. Once bitten, there are two courses of action to follow. We can either react with fear and anger to chase the snake and kill it. Or we can get the venom out as quickly as possible. Pursuing the latter course exponentially increases our likelihood of survival, while chasing the former often paralyzes or kills us before we ever come close to accomplishing our vengeful objective.
Likewise, blaming others, harboring unkind feelings or refusing to forgive only hurts us in the end. The safer, wiser, better approach is to immediately begin the internal cleansing process. The longer the poison of resentment stays within, the greater and longer lasting its toxic effects will be.
So make a list of people you need to forgive, and then just do it! And while you’re at it, don’t forget to forgive yourself. Love and thankfulness will begin to flow into our hearts and expand our souls the very moment we forgive and let go.
So, what are you thankful for? Don’t be shy about sharing, especially with those you love most. Speaking of which, I want to tell Leslie, the first lady of Boulder City, the girl of my dreams, how very thankful I am that she’s mine and I’m hers. All that I am and ever hope to be is because of her. Thank you, Sweetheart. I love you!
Rod Woodbury is the mayor of Boulder City. He has been serving on the City Council since 2011 and is the president and managing shareholder of his law firm, Woodbury Law.