“Gratitude is the realization that we have everything we need, at least in this moment.”-M. J. Ryan
This November, I’ve decided to participate in the “Thirty Days of Thanks” challenge. Since November is the month of Thanksgiving, the challenge is to meditate on something you are thankful for each of the thirty days of the month.
Giving thanks and possessing an attitude of gratitude are so important to living a happy and successful life, especially in a society where self-centeredness, competitiveness, greed and envy are so common. In my own life, striving to be extremely competitive in my sport, I personally know how easy it is to get caught up in comparing myself to someone else.
Far too often I find myself guilty of scrolling through Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and becoming envious of someone else’s seemingly better life or current circumstances. This weekend, for example, I had a lot of friends running in different races across the country. From my friend Hiruni, running her marathon debut in a World’s qualifying time (BEAST!), to my high school, Collins Hill, winning their Region (Congrats!), to my hometown-hero Shannon Wargo running in the Ohio State Meet (Super Proud!) to my alma mater FSU’s Conference meet, (They’ll be back!) to last year’s teammates running the Dash to the Finish 5k (Lookin fit!) and finally the NYC Marathon (my Sunday morning entertainment)–let’s just say I was online more than usual, anxious to see all of the results! While I was really happy to see several of my friends run great, at the same time it got me a little bit frustrated as I began to think about my own fitness and how I’m not quite where I was at this point last year.
Last year, this very weekend in fact, I ran my 5k road PR at the Dash to the Finish 5k. What’s funny is, just before that race I wrote a blog titled, #iLackNothing, which reflected upon Philippians 4:19,
“And my God will meet all your needs,” says the verse.
As I went back and read this verse and reflected upon the truth that God covers all of our needs, I was reminded that I shouldn’t be comparing my fitness right now to what it was 365 days ago, or what anyone else is doing. I know I have a plan, and God has a plan, and a promise too.
You see, there are always things to be thankful for, and the main thing I’m thankful for today is the promise God gives to those who follow Him. This promise, is that he will provide for us in this life (though not in the material, health or wealthy ways we might expect) but even greater he will provide forgiveness of anyone’s sins, great or small, and finally an eternal, loving relationship with Him.
That in itself, is a promise so profound, that if we have nothing else in life, we can still be satisfied with having Christ in our life. But for many of us, our blessings go beyond this to include simple things we also take for granted. The ability to breath, smile, see, sing, laugh, read, write, or run. Somewhere to live, somewhere to sleep, something to eat or something to wear. If you’re reading this, you probably have a laptop or smartphone (something 4/5 people in the world do not have).
“Gratitude is the realization that we have everything we need, at least in this moment,” says M. J. Ryan, author of Attitudes of Gratitude: How to Give and Receive Joy Every Day of Your Life. It’s easy to focus on the things we don’t have, for there will ALWAYS be something. But by focusing only on the incredible blessings we DO have, we all can learn to live more satisfying lives.
The “Thirty Days of Thanks” challenge is a way to make the attitude of gratitude a habit. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, so it’s okay if you’ve missed these first few days of November. I challenge you, for at least the next three weeks, to take time everyday to think about, write out or proclaim something that you’re thankful for. I guarantee it will change your attitude for the better!
Ways to live-out the 30 Days of Thanks:
- Gratitude Jar: Take an old mason jar and fill it with the things you are thankful for by writing them down on a post-it and sticking them in the jar. At the end of the month you’ll realize how blessed you really are!
- Random Acts of Thanks: Send a random card or note to someone you are thankful for, not necessarily for something they have done lately, but just for their presence in your life.
- Social Media Freeze: If you find yourself a victim of the “social media envy” try giving it up for a day, week or month so that you aren’t focusing on what everyone else’s life supposedly looks like.
- Social Media Shout-Outs: You may not feel its necessary to give up social media, so instead use it as a tool to share what you are thankful for, using #30DaysofThanks and #iLackNothing. Try not to post things that come across as bragging, and instead post things that will help others see what they have to be thankful for.
- Two Simple Words: Just saying “thank you” every day can be so important to showing your appreciation.