People are not drawn to those who always seem to be in a bad mood. In fact, they are repelled by such people. If you are that cynical person who always sees the bad in every good, there’s a very high chance I won’t be hanging out with you. And with time, those who’ve been tolerating you will be gone too.
This past Thursday was Thanksgiving Day in the US. I’ve never really known how big a deal it is to them until this time. I guess it’s because I now have a lot more stake in there than I did before.
The daily news TV shows were all shutting down for the week by Wednesday. In fact, one of the guys I rely on for daily news summaries on YouTube had to close for the week by Tuesday due to “forces beyond his control.”
The workers got Thursday and Friday off, many of them traveling to their various hometowns to spend the long weekend. Even their President left the White House for Florida to spend time with his family.
54.3million Americans were projected to travel 50 miles or more from where they lived to have thanksgiving with their extended family and friends. Why go through that trouble just to sit around the dinner table and take turns saying what you are grateful for?
Well, the proof is in the pudding. Not the one they eat at Thanksgiving – I doubt they even do – but in the result of participating in the activity of thanks-giving.
Gratitude improves your attitude. Saying ‘Thank You’ improves your mood. It makes you optimistic and everyone likes an optimistic person. They have an attractive personality. Maybe that’s why everyone is attracted to Americans. Maybe that’s why they have caravans of people banging on their gates, at their borders, wanting to come hangout with them.
They remind themselves every year of what they are grateful for. And what that does it point out to them that despite the difficulties they faced throughout the past year, they could still easily find things to be grateful for; Grateful for each other, for family, for friends, for finances, for being alive. That alone gives you a pretty optimistic view of life. No matter how tough it gets, it always ends with a smile and a ‘thank you’.
I don’t live there, but I’m blessed to live in a small city where it is customary to say ‘thank you’ to the bus driver when getting off the bus. This means that I get to say ‘Thank You’ in the morning on my way to work, and in the evening on my way home. Gratitude bookends my typical day. This puts me in an optimistic, good mood at work during the day and at home at night.
Finding someone to say ‘thank you’ to is very important. It is also not the natural thing to do by the way. That’s why it takes a lot of time and effort to get children used to saying it. It betrays the sense of helplessness we all feel and would rather mask with our egos.
Saying ‘thank you’ to someone means you acknowledge that you need them. They did something for you that you could not do for yourself. And who really wants to acknowledge that anyway? But trust me, as vulnerable as it seems, it could be very freeing. Saying ‘thank you’ eventually improves your mood. Knowing you are around those you need and that you can count on them is a very good feeling; whether they be bus drivers, restaurant waiters, school teachers or store keepers.
The only unfortunate thing about the American Thanksgiving celebration is the concept of ‘Black Friday’. Imagine spending the whole day on Thursday, with people, being thankful for what you have and then spending the next day, Friday, at the stores, fighting people over sales in order to get your hands on even more stuff. Where’s the contentment? Where’s the optimism? Where’s the abundant harvest you just celebrated?
When you live a life of shortages with the scarcity-mentality that Black Friday encourages, you begin to view those around you no longer as friends, no longer as those who have your back, but now as enemies and competitors. Since things are limited, their getting it means you are losing. And then you fight over stuff like they do at the many stores on Black Friday. That entire optimistic outlook on life gained on Thursday is immediately wiped out by Black Friday.
Lack of contentment is the quickest way down from the very high hill of optimism, to the valley of despair. It is the reason why people end up not getting along with others. And it’s not a valid reason at all. It can be changed. It should be changed.
Gratitude has to be accompanied by contentment. And that means continuously reminding yourself of the things you already have, the people you already have, and being grateful for and content with them. That is how that optimistic good mood is sustained; that attractive personality that brings people your way and helps you see the best in them.
People help us achieve great things, things we cannot do alone. So the more of them we have in our lives, the richer our lives will become. And we keep them there by maintaining and sustaining our optimism, which starts, continues and ends with these two magical words –