Years ago, when I was young and reckless, I backpacked solo through Syria. One morning, at the bus station in Homs, I had to make a spur of the moment decision; I could go west, towards the sea and Lebanon, or I could go east, to the ancient city of Palmyra. I turned west. I never saw Palmyra. The 2000 year old city is now in the hands of ISIS.
Cultivating a gratuitous and appreciative attitude can be advantageous in almost any situation. People with a positive disposition tend to cope more efficiently and constructively with life's daily challenges. It's like they are getting a boost from a source deep within that gives them greater strength and resilience.
I've been lucky to have a fulfilling marriage, a job that I love and a life filled with meaning. But like anyone, I'm familiar with the stretches of hopelessness that can come when life gets to be too much -- or not nearly enough. I began sponsoring Alejandro in Bolivia when he was just five, sure that I'd be improving his life. What took me completely off-guard was the way that he's lifted mine.
If you're a frenzied striver (and lord knows I have lots of experience in this department), you struggle and push and rage to get more, but before you take a moment to appreciate what you have, it's on to the next thing. Better. Higher. More stuff. More accomplishments. More accolades. Enough. You have enough. Notice it. Appreciate it.
Then, I started my gratitude rowing. Now going to the gym is something I look forward to rather than dread. Furthermore, as I progress in my new good habit, I see a universal truth: the more I am grateful, the more I have to be grateful for. This Thanksgiving, here are some of the many things I am grateful for:
It must be fall, bringing with it Thanksgiving. This October, however, more than 16,000 families in Ontario will have no other choice but to visit a food bank for the first time in their entire lives. And while the idea of turkey dinner with all the trimmings certainly sounds delicious, for over 375,000 adults and children, it is simply not the reality of the season.
As an adolescent psychiatrist, I've treated countless patients who have achieved their cherished external goals, such as acceptance into a dance academy, sports team, or college of "their choice"-- but whose lives are utterly devoid of internal joy. Your role as a parent has a major impact on your child's understanding of the word gratitude.
Growing up in the 50's and 60's, my mother Lillian was primarily a "stay-at-home"mother. It's not that she didn't have high aspirations for her future, as she dreamed of being a dancer. However, times required she go to work directly after graduating high school as a bookkeeper for a dress manufacturer, her professional dancing dreams dashed.