It’s hard to believe that November is right around the corner! November means Thanksgiving is just right around the corner! Yikes!  Where has the year gone!

Thanksgiving always causes me to pause and reflect on the essence of the holiday – Gratitude.

Gratitude is one of those things that we talk a lot about. We talk about it with our kids, we speak of it with our friends and we study it at church.

“Thank you” is that phrase I learned as kid when my parents wanted me to be polite and have good manners. Of course, I’ve continued that same tradition by teaching my own kids to say thank you when someone has blessed them in some way.

Yes, being thankful is important but I think gratitude is more than just a nice way to demonstrate good manners. I think gratitude is a heart and soul issue.

Webster seems to agree. Check out this definition,

“Gratitude is the substance of a heart ready to show appreciation, or thankfulness; it is not simply an emotion, which involves a pleasant feeling that can occur when we receive a favor or benefit from another person but rather the combination of a state of being AND an emotion”

Although we know that thankfulness and appreciation are the keys to a happy, healthy life, we still seem to struggle with being thankful for what we have, who we’re with or where we are. We seem to get so covered over with the stress of our life that we kick into survival mode and forget all about being thankful.

Stress is a super destructive force in our lives.  We’ve heard all about what it can do to both our mental, and physical health. Study after study has proven the detrimental effects long term stress can have on us. From anxiety and depression, to heart disease and insomnia, stress can destroy our health.

It is true, life is full of stressful situations. A difficult marriage, the daily struggle of an unruly toddler or teen, financial struggles, critically ill children, death of a loved one and divorce are only a puny sampling of the unlimited causes of stress in our lives. Still others work in stressful jobs, such as, our first responders, military, emergency room medical staff, and the list goes on.

It seems the causes of stress are everywhere. Are we doomed? Is this the new normal? Do we throw up our hands and just accept the level of stress, and the damage it does in our lives?

Sure… if you want to live a short, sick, miserable life!

Or, we can work to neutralize stress by cultivating an attitude of thankfulness, and appreciation for absolutely everything in our lives, good and bad. Studies have proven, that the positive feelings generated by an attitude of gratitude, can be the exact remedy we need to cure the physical, mental and emotional ailments, caused by on-going stress.

When I think of what gratitude can do in our lives, I think of what a beautiful ground cover can do, to stabilize a vulnerable portion of my garden. A thick, lush ground cover can prevent erosion, and protect against weeds, much the same as what gratitude can do for our hearts. When cultivated well, gratitude can protect our hearts from the erosion caused by ongoing stress. In addition, a “good ground cover” of gratitude can prevent the invasion of the weeds of despair, which can come with unfettered stress. Being thankful can protect us from the effects of stress, and bring that sense of wellbeing and happiness that we yearn for.

Living a life of thankfulness and appreciation is like planting a lovely, protective, ground cover in our lives. But sometimes, if we haven’t been diligent about being thankful, we may have developed some bad habits, that are like the rocks in my garden. Rocky soil can be one of a garden’s worst enemies. It can make growing anything impossible. The same is true with certain bad habits that can develop in us over time, if we aren’t careful. These bad habits are enemies of gratitude, and need to be dug up and thrown out.

These habits, or enemies, can make cultivating gratitude in our lives nearly impossible. What are these enemies? We’ll talk about that in the next post.

For now think about the importance of gratitude and how you can cultivate it in your life!