An exercise in thankfulness

This week it’s Thanksgiving in the USA, where I lived until I was 22. It’s a day every year where people come together to eat ridiculous amounts of food and then fall asleep in front of the TV. It’s sort of like an extra Christmas without the presents or the religion. I won’t go into the full history of it here, but if you want to know more, then this article in the Telegraph is pretty informative.

For some, Thanksgiving is just about having a good time and they don’t think much about what it really means. However, for many, we like to take a moment and think about what we are grateful for in our lives. And a cursory Google search on the term “being thankful” brought up numerous articles explaining how gratitude can actually make you healthier.

But it’s not always that easy, is it? Children need looking after, houses need cleaning, work needs doing, family members need help, you get health problems, you have a bad day, people are jerks … all of the things that happen in a normal life can pile on top of each other and weigh you down until you forget to look up and remember what’s good.

I’ve been feeling a bit weighed down lately myself – so much so that I’ve started having heart palpitations and even panic attacks. My doctor’s only suggestion was to “give up coffee”. Oh right, like that’s going to make me less stressed!

But I have decided that as it’s Thanksgiving, I’m going to make an effort. I don’t bother with the turkey and all the fixings now that I live in the UK (I get enough turkey at Christmas, thanks), but I do think taking time out to be grateful is time well spent. So here is my exercise in thankfulness. I’m going to tell you some of the things that are pissing me off, and then find something related for which I’m thankful. Some are serious – some less so – but hopefully some of you will get where I’m coming from.

I’m not happy about…

…the fact that my older son is still not getting on well at school. He screams at the teachers and runs aways down the halls. Yesterday the teacher actually called home to tell me what he’d been up to. His behaviour at home has gone downhill as well. This is despite a recent visit to a paediatrician who basically thought he was fine. I’m at a loss as to how to help him right now.

But I’m grateful for…

…my son. We are having these issues but he is still my child and we love each other. There’s nothing better when I hear him say “I love you” in his little voice. We can play and giggle and have a laugh. I am not the perfect parent and I need to learn how to work with him to improve his behaviour, but we will always be a team.

I’m not happy about…

…having lost a friend recently. He passed away and I’d not made the effort to see him for a while. And so I felt grief but also guilt. I messaged him just before I found out what had happened, but it was already too late.

But I’m grateful for…

…the fun times we had together. I’ve spent some time looking at old photos and remembering, and enjoyed a pint of Guinness (his favourite) in his honour. Remembering the good is the only way to move forward. I’m also grateful for the lesson I learned about keeping in touch with people. Next time I think of a friend, I will message them straight away, while I still have the chance.

I’m not happy about…

…being sore and weak while recovering from the hernia surgery I had recently. I haven’t been able to pick up my kids or even leave the house for the last week and a half.

But I’m grateful for…

…the prospect that this will improve my long-term health. Plus, the leaflet they sent me home with says I must not do the washing or hoovering for 6 weeks! It’s right there in black and white. I’ve shown it to my husband.

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I won’t be doing this for 6 long weeks!

I’m not happy about…

…my lack of interior design skills. My house is so cluttered, with my main decorating accents being brightly-coloured plastic toys. I look with envy at beautiful lifestyle blogs and their owners’ skilled arrangement of attractive scatter cushions. I have scatter cushions that my neighbour gave me after she bought some nicer ones. It was my house or the bin for them. Appropriate – since at my house they are often covered in cat hair and biscuit crumbs.

But I’m grateful for…

…the fact we’re nearly finished building an extension to our house. It’s been hard having builders around and everything in upheaval for the last 5 months, but soon we will have more living and storage space. Hopefully I will then be able to cut the clutter. I doubt I’ll get any better about scatter cushions though.

I’m not happy about…

…being rubbish at Instagram. This is a blogger gripe. I know good bloggers are expected to take fabulous photos and share them on Instagram. But I just don’t really “get” photography. To me, it’s what the picture makes you think about, rather than the aesthetics. And I hate the shallow “great feed” comments you get.

But I’m grateful for…

…the people who follow me anyway! Why anyone beyond my close friends are happy to look at a poorly-lit photograph of my dinner is beyond me. But they do. I even got 30-odd likes on a shot of my messy living room full of packages of laminate flooring and plaster dust. So I’ve decided to keep it real on Instagram. I’m going to post pics of my real life and just be happy with the followers who want to see it.

I’m not happy about…

…what I like to call the Christmas conundrum. I’ve been working hard to get fit and be happy with the way I look for a school reunion I have coming this summer (don’t we all want to be fabulous when we see the people we grew up with after a long time?). The surgery has set me back a bit, and now we’re getting into Christmas. How can I eat ALL the mince pies without compromising my fitness goals?

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I need to try all the different brands. Let’s call it blog research.

But I’m grateful for…

…the fact that I can choose to binge on pie or not. Some people can’t afford to buy all the pies, or can’t eat pies for other reasons. I’m thankful for the very existence of pie. And wine. Let’s not forget to mention wine.

But really, why bother?

Being thankful often gets a bad name. Insensitive people try to cheer up a person who is grieving or having a bad time by pointing out that they have things to be thankful for. But it doesn’t work that way. Everyone needs to talk about things that are making them unhappy, and being thankful can’t always fix things. It’s also important to be honest about our own feelings.

But forcing myself to write down some of the things that make me happy – thinking about what’s funny, what’s serious, what’s poignant and what I have learned – has already made me feel calmer and more in control. I’ve taken a break from exercising my body, but taking some time to flex my thankful muscles has helped me lose some of the weight I’ve been carrying on my shoulders.

What things are you stressed out about? What are you most thankful for? Let me know in the comments.

Tammymum
mumturnedmom
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
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20 thoughts on “An exercise in thankfulness

  1. It is a good idea to sit down and actually think about the positive side to the negatives as it does make us realise there are things to be thankful for. On the heart palpitations and panic attacks – I had the same scenario 6 years ago and gave up coffee on the advice of a doctor. It worked so maybe think about it – decaff coffee is so good nowadays you won’t notice the difference and take magnesium. #familyfun

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I’ve had a lot of downtime after the hernia surgery and my palpitations haven’t been bothering me so I wonder if I was just very stressed. Let’s see how I do when normal life resumes!

      Like

  2. I completely agree with you when you say, that being thankful can’t fix everything. But the acknowledgement of what you’re grateful for and what makes you unhappy makes you see things in a whole new light. To be honest with your feelings and emotions and not be ashamed of them, takes a whole lot of stress off your shoulders. Great post!
    #theprompt

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah this is a really good post (and very mindful too!) about re-framing thoughts. As you probably know gratitude is a key principle of mindfulness and as you say there is so much evidence to show it helps our health, however, as you discuss, it doesn’t mean we should shove our more negative emotions to one side – we need to meet these face on too. I’m so sorry you’ve been feeling a bit rubbish and suffering from the panic attacks – and that the GP was so unhelpful – I was lucky enough to find a leaflet in our GP’s surgery about mindfulness when I went with similar issues and it has deffo helped – our IAPT ran courses which was so helpful…. anyway, you’ve probably explored all this stuff anyway. Lots of love xx

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  4. You’re absolutely right that being thankful can’t miraculously make everything okay. It does provide a shift in perspective though, which is useful and very worthwhile. Your point about acknowledging the things that are making us unhappy is hugely important too, and something that I think a lot of us are bad at! I’m sorry that you haven’t been feeling great, and I hope you start to feel better soon, I love the positivity of your last sentence though xx Thank you so much for sharing such a thoughtful post with #ThePrompt x

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  5. So true! Its hard to hold on to that positive perspective when things are challenging, but a helpful thing to stop and reflect every once in a while. Your post has reminded me that its ok to see both sides of the situation – being forever the optimist isn’t really sustainable, and at the end of the day times of sadness / anger / heartache can’t always be willed away with a happy thought. And yet there is much to be thankful for, even when times are tough. I’m currently most stressed and most thankful for my job – returning to work after a year of maternity leave has been tough, but I’m lucky to have a job that fits around my baby. Good luck with everything #theprompt

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  6. I am sorry to hear about your friend and I hope things improve with your son. I like the idea of writing a list of things to feel thankful for – I would certainly be grateful to not have to do washing, although perhaps not at the cost of a hernia op. Hope you recover well and soon Thanks for sharing at #familyfun xx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Perhaps I need to do this exercise! I’ve been feeling a bit bleurgh at the moment so anything that can make me think and be grateful can surely be good hey! Thanks for linking up to #familyfun

    Like

  8. I love this, it’s very important to find positives amongst the negatives. I’m stressed about on-going health issues but I’m grateful that I have a beautiful family and the support of good friends. Thank you for linking with #kcacols

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is a lovely post, Nicole. You are right it is good to think about the things that make us happy and that we are grateful for. It does remind you that it is not all bad! I like the idea of not having to do the washing for 6 weeks too! Enjoy! 😉 #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

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