“If the stars should appear but one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature
Emerson is sharing his perception of a very basic human trait- man’s ability to take things for granted. I have to admit, I felt a little twinge of guilt as I read this quote. I have been too busy complaining about the short days and haven’t once taken advantage of the darkness to look up and thank God that I am alive to see the stars. Unfortunately, we can become so accustomed to our blessings that we can lose our sense of gratitude. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
After reading this quote by Emerson, I felt inspired to go out and look at the stars. “Thank you, thank you, thank you for the beauty of these stars,” I repeated in my head. And I couldn’t help but smile. I felt connected, I felt grateful, and I felt happy. All these positive emotions just from star-gazing.
This week we celebrated Thanksgiving- a holiday devoted to expressing gratitude. Just as we made the decision last week to be thankful for our amazing family, friends, freedom and gifts, we can choose to be thankful today and every day for the beautiful “stars” in our life.
The “stars” in your life that you see every day, but perhaps don’t verbally thank, could be your parents, your spouse, your family, your friends, your co-workers or your pets. You can also feel joy from acknowledging everyday things you are grateful for: the way your coffee smells in the morning, a reliable car to get to work or a home that has running water and heat. Being thankful is a choice- and evidence suggests that when we actively choose to practice gratitude- our overall happiness increases.
For example, researchers in a 2003 study randomly assigned one group of study participants to keep a short weekly list of the things they were grateful for, while other groups listed hassles or neutral events. Ten weeks later, the study found that the first group enjoyed significantly greater life satisfaction than the other groups.
Success, health, love and relationships grow stronger when we express or acknowledge feelings of gratitude. It’s like the law of attraction. When you take the time to appreciate the good things in your life, you will begin to notice additional blessings to be thankful for. If you find yourself complaining about daily tasks, then you will probably find more things that irritate or annoy you throughout the day.
When I was younger, if I were to complain to my mom about not wanting to go to soccer practice, my mom would say, “Maybe instead of complaining about running, you can thank God today for legs that work and a body that can move.”
As a follow-up from Thanksgiving, how about a “Gratitude Walk” this weekend to keep the positive energy flowing. You can make it a game with your family- how many things will you spot or come up with during your walk that you can be thankful for? Starting with being thankful for legs that work.