On this day of thankfulness I wonder if I am truly thankful. Do I show gratitude on a consistent basis? Beyond the confident facade, I have to honestly answer, “Nope”. Take a day like this where I am reminded of what I am to be thankful for. How long will that feeling of gratitude last? It very rarely sustains. Sooner or later a petty situation will bring complaints out of me. Thankfulness dissipates slowly over time.
I keep coming back to Daniel Kahneman’s line that humans are particularly skilled at ignoring our own ignorance. Keeping gratitude at the forefront is tricky because of this. Under stress my mind atrophies. Perhaps that is why I dole out lip service, especially on holidays like these. Telling myself I am grateful a couple days out of the year is easy. It puts my mind at ease – of course I’m thankful! The ignorance is working at full force.
How can we fight our ignorance and sustain gratitude? Those who seem to sustain thankfulness have something in common. They look at gratitude as a practice rather than a feeling.
Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius serves as one such example. My favorite book from his compiled journals, Meditations, is the opening one. Therein he notes people in his life who taught him valuable life lessons. This journaling served as a way for Marcus Aurelius to remember the people who made him the man he was. Reminding himself was a practice in thankfulness.
Whether it is journaling or prayer, sending ‘thank you’ notes or hanging with friends, I think sustained thankfulness comes from practice. You don’t achieve gratitude and then forget about it. It must be maintained over time, otherwise the thankfulness will disappear.
These kind of days should serve as a reminder to take thankfulness out of our minds and into practice.