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I wonder how many blogs, articles and other social media postings are going to revolve around the concept of thankfulness and gratitude this week? Inherently, there is nothing wrong with this and should you be more thankful or grateful because of this season, then that is wonderful.

But what does one do when they do not feel grateful or thankful?  What if this season in someone’s life is ripe with hardship and calamity?  How does one go about willing themselves back into a state of thankfulness (For that matter, how does one will himself or herself into emotional state, period?)?  I will say that I have seen (or been on the receiving end of) some well-intended, but ultimately unhelpful, advice on this issue.

  • Does it help when someone tells you to "just be thankful"? I call this "The Nike Approach" to emotional intelligence.  And, while the advice to "just do it" can be helpful when we're talking about sports and exercise, it might not serve us so well when we're talking about emotional states and our responses to them.
  • Other times, people share their emotional state upon you (not "with you"; "upon you.") hoping that they will somehow rub off and make you become like them. I've actually seen this one work a few times, but the effect is temporary (once the two people are out-of-proximity from each other, they go back to their former emotional states and responses).
  • One of the strangest suggestions for thankfulness is when people suggest that you compare yourself, in a given moment, to someone less fortunate than you as a method of lifting your spirits. But considering starving children or abused people in light of your ability to purchase a Big Mac seems like an odd way to traverse through life.

Paying close attention to how we feel in a given moment is the beginning of learning how to be more in control of our responses. Learn to control your responses to emotions and your life will be radically altered. Say, for example, you need to get some work done today but you really don’t “feel like it.”  Have you ever said that to yourself?  What if you need to pick up the phone and call someone and have a tough conversation but you certainly don’t feel like making that call?  What if someone wishes you a “Happy Thanksgiving” and in that moment you feel neither thankful nor happy?

  1. It comes down to choice. One of the greatest gifts given to humanity is our choice of response to any circumstance.  If you feel thankful, grateful, peaceful, etc. today because of life’s circumstances, then ride that and be blessed.  If you don’t, then pay attention as to why, accept yourself where you are and maybe let yourself consider other responses to circumstances that are causing you to “feel” the way you feel.
  2. The only other “tip” I want to offer in my article here is this: if ever there is a time when “how you feel” is incongruent with how you wish you felt, then make a choice, in that moment, to help someone else.  Investing in others is a great way to get back on the tracks.

May your week be blessed.  I am thankful that you read our articles.