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A Word About Gratitude

What a wonderful holiday it is! Thanksgiving!
It may be my favorite. No pressure to buy gifts. All we have to do is visit and eat and watch ball games (and eat).
Of course, travel can be stressful as can be meal preparation. Also, being with people who we are normally not around involves its own stresses. But overall, it is a great time of celebration with a profound focus: Gratitude!
In my preparation for a talk on “Lessons from Popular Culture,” I have been reminded that, in our consumer society, one of the most obvious and persistent themes from advertisers is: “You do not have enough.”
Think about it, your car is not good or new enough, the clothes you wear must be improved, along with your house. Add to that your cell phone, your cell phone service, your computer, your television set, your dog food and every other aspect of your existence. It is seriously lacking. You just don’t measure up!
And what about your marriage? Think of the flaws in your spouse (not your own, of course). Don’t you deserve better? Of course you do!
These messages are repeated to us over and over, day after day, year after year. The focus of consumerism is: There are many things you deserve and do not have.
One way to offset those misguided and self-defeating messages? Gratitude!
Often, as I am counseling someone struggling with some form of depression, I will assign homework to be done away from the office. I want that person, every day, to write down five things or people or situations for which they are truly, deeply thankful.
Done consistently, this assignment will shift one’s focus away from what they do not have to what they do have.
Try it. It is a simple exercise that can have a dramatic impact upon the way we look at our lives and what we allow ourselves to dwell on. Do we see ourselves as deprived or blessed? Have we been cheated out of what we think we deserve, or are we truly privileged? Despite our losses and our pains, are we able to recognize and acknowledge how genuinely wonderful our lives are?
I hope you have a delightful Thanksgiving week and that you will enjoy the following “Thanksgiving Song” as sung by Mary Chapin Carpenter.  Simply click on the picture.

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