Every Thanksgiving dinner for as long as I can remember, my father would tell us that Thanksgiving was his favourite holiday. Then out would come the groans that inevitably occur when a parent’s moralizing speech stands in the way of digging into a delicious meal.

In the eyes of this kid, it seemed like the lamest pick the guy could make. No presents, no chocolate, no magic turkey to take pictures with at the mall. We just eat good food and take turns saying how lucky we are to have said food and a roof over our heads and so on.

Well Dad, the day you’ve forever dreamed of has finally come, bring out the champagne flutes… You were right.  Now that I’m older, I do understand. Thanksgiving rocks! So much so, that I no longer wait for that one day a year to gives thanks. I do it all the time!

More and more people are catching on to the benefits of counting your blessings which, according to psychologists, increases happiness  and decreases depression.

In my own life, regularly taking the time to reflect on what I’m grateful for was originally presented to me by a counsellor as a means to relieve stress and anxiety. I may have nodded, but I was thinking “It’s all fine and dandy that I acknowledge how lucky I am but it doesn’t change the fact that I still have to finish that paper by Wednesday, I have an early shift tomorrow and I promised so and so I would X, Y, Z!”

Plus I never had any trouble realizing just how fortunate I was.  I’d already been studying and working in international development for a couple of years; I didn’t have to look for reasons why I’m blessed. But in terms of setting time aside to reflect on my gratitude and truly feel it, that was something I’d never done.

As with anything, with repeated exposure to the idea (and increasing desperation),  I adopted the  practice of intentional moments of gratitude and  eventually began  a “gratitude journal”. The practice of cultivating an attitude of gratitude is now more or less mainstream, immortalized in bestselling books such as Gretchen Rubin’s delightful and helpful The Happiness Project.

There are always the good old basics –food, shelter, friends and family—but after keeping a gratitude journal for a little bit,  I began to reflect on some  of the less frequently lauded perks in my life.

Here are a few things that are all around me that I am grateful for:

The Internet: How convenient is it that I can read a restaurant’s whole menu from the comfort of my own home before deciding whether it’s worth a visit? Email, file sharing sites, Skype make my daily life sooo much easier. When my boyfriend and I spent four months in different hemispheres we still spoke every single day – for free! Awesome.

 Air quality: It is literally all around me. As I currently do a 3 month stint in Lima (a city  of well over the official 8 million), I am confronted by its relatively poor air quality. Excessive humidity that never goes away, dust, vehicle emissions, construction everywhere. It’s an assault on the respiratory tract! And it’s not just a city thing. Ever since my stay on a small Costa Rican island where people burned their garbage, I have been acutely aware of how fortunate I am to call Canada my home, if only for one reason. One can breathe easy with our small population, organized public transportation, and green space. Purely amazing!

 

Good bed sheets: Seriously. You know when the air is crisp, there’s a chilly breeze out, and you’re ready to tuck in after a long day? Can anything match the sweet feeling that comes from slipping under a set of soft warm bed sheets? Blissful.

 

Growing up with siblings:  I don’t mean my siblings in particular (though they are the epitome of stupendous) but simply the fact that I have siblings. There’s something indescribably special about what I’ve been able to share with those who were always there. To watch my stuffed animal theatre, to dress up with, to make up fun games on long car rides with, to secretly entertain me when my parents grounded me, when I cried myself to sleep…As social a person as I am, I would have grown up with a lot less smiles were it not for having fellow minors as house mates.

And the list goes on and on and on… I’ve felt the happiness boost firsthand. So, let me add one more thing to my list: I’m grateful for Thanksgiving, as it’s a strong reminder of the importance of gratitude!

What are some of the blessings in your life that might not always be in the spotlight? Care to inspire us?

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