I love Thanksgiving so much I would say it vies for first place in my favorite holiday lineup. I love and adore a classic turkey dinner with all the trimmings. I love the fall weather, which always accompanies the day. I love the fact that Thanksgiving ushers in the winter holidays, offering me a front-row seat on the very best time of the year.
I love all of those things. What I don't love is the idea that Thanksgiving is the only day of the year that we give thanks. Gratitude is too important in our lives to be considered briefly en masse on the fourth Thursday of November.
Giving thanks and counting our blessings is good for us. It reminds us of the positive things in life. Gratitude turns bad things into good things and reminds us to thank others.
Just imagine what might happen if our annual single-day tradition of giving thanks were to become a daily routine? Medical professionals suggest we would be rewarded with better health, as medical research reveals more about the strong connection between gratitude and good health.
Just as strong is the belief that stress can make us sick. It's linked to heart disease and cancer. Shockingly, stress is responsible for up to 90% of all doctor visits. Just think about the financial costs associated with stress-related maladies. The antidote for stress is gratitude, as it calms our minds and lowers our blood pressure. Then, we are able to see our circumstances in a fresh, new light.
Even in the face of tremendous loss or tragedy, it's possible to feel gratitude. Adversity can actually boost feelings of gratitude, a phenomenon that many of us experienced immediately following Sept. 11, 2001, as we saw the tremendous loss in light of what we still possessed.
You don't have to wait for a tragedy to grow your feelings of gratitude. You can start today with something as simple as a gratitude journal. Research shows that people who keep gratitude journals on a weekly basis feel better about their lives as a whole, exercise more regularly, report fewer physical symptoms of illness and maintain greater optimism about the future.
Perhaps you're wondering what to be grateful for. Be thankful that you don't have everything you desire. If you did, you would have nothing to look forward to. Be thankful for the difficult people you have to work with. They are improving your patience and understanding. Be thankful when you don't know something; it gives you the opportunity to learn. Be thankful for difficult times; it's in times of hardship that you grow. Be thankful when you're exhausted at the end of a day, because you know you've accomplished something.
What do I give thanks for, privately, in my own gratitude sessions? It varies every day. I thank my readers for the encouragement they give me by reading this column. I thank my family and friends for all they do for me. I thank God for the life he's given me. I thank people I know around the world for the things they're doing out of personal sacrifice to make the world better.
Choose to be grateful today — and every day — for all that you have. Gratitude will fill your heart with contentment. And best of all? Gratitude is 100% free, in any amount you desire.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary a Question." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of Debt-Proof Living, a personal finance member website and the author of the book Debt-Proof Living, Revell 2014. To find out more about Mary visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.