What My November Thankful Challenge Taught Me About Gratitude
As the start to the holiday season, November is often the time we use to focus on gratitude. It is the time we try to do more than just say “thank you.” Although the terms thankfulness and gratitude are not entirely interchangeable–thankfulness is more related to the act for which you’re thankful, while gratitude is more the sense of thankfulness–this November, I decided I would do a Thankful Challenge on my blog, where I would focus on the things I am grateful for throughout the month.
I’ll be honest. I didn’t expect much from myself in the way of content when I started. Last year, I didn’t feel like I had much to be thankful for—I wasn’t in a good place mentally—and as I’ve worked to pull myself from that, I have found solace in, mostly, my dog and activity. So, I thought my posts would repeatedly consist of “I am thankful for my dog,” and the challenge would fizzle out as I became too encumbered by trying so hard to find something to be thankful for.
But I was pleasantly surprised.
It forced me to find gratitude for even the smallest of things.
If being locked in a depressive episode for almost a year taught me anything, it’s that the smallest things can be the biggest help. There were days I was thankful for something big I knew God was doing, but, more often, there were days I was grateful for small things. For instance, I slid into a small ditch during a snow storm, and, as I was on hold with AAA, a stranger pulled up next to me and offered to tow me out. Sure, that’s a pretty big thing. But by that evening, I was thankful that my mom could pick up my dog from her daycare, because there was no way I was getting back in my car. Yes, I was thankful for the act, but I was also grateful for what it communicated to me: that she knew I needed Belle, and my dog was important.
It forced me to truly reflect on gratitude each day.
I often let my busyness get the better of me. I’m sure you know the feeling. I tell myself I’m going to set aside time to pray, read my Bible, reflect, read a book, or even write. But I then find myself feeling like I’m penciling in miscellaneous appointments all day, and I wind up feeling like the activity is a chore or that I’m rushed through it. Since blogging and writing is what I do, I took this challenge—and setting aside time for it, somehow, someway—seriously. It didn’t matter if it was just five minutes, I wrote down what I was grateful for that day because I was focused on creating quality and authentic content.
It put me in a better mood.
This is pretty simple. When I set aside that time to write down what I was grateful for, I found that my anger or frustration or whatever was bothering me dissipated. Because I was focused on the positive, my mind could be more positive.
It helped me to focus on my faith.
As a Christian, I know I should thank God every day and every time I go to Him, but sometimes that’s hard, especially when I feel busy or angry or hurt. As a Christian lifestyle blogger, though, I write about that hardness I experience in my faith and connect with others, showing that you do not have to worship or pray or even believe in a perfect way to be a woman of faith. This challenge helped me to really see not only how to thank God, but also that I can thank Him for those seemingly small things. Because all good things come from Him, even, and sometimes most especially, the small ones.
So, as the holiday season gets revved to full volume, think about what you are grateful for. Put yourself in that space, take a minute to reflect, write it down. You may be surprised at the results.