I’ve been thinking a lot about Thanksgiving this year. It’s normally such a festive time, gathering my friends and family around me for wonderful food and a feeling of appreciation and gratitude. The holiday season, in general, gives me hope and optimism. This year, it’s a little bit of a struggle, as I will not gather with my family.
My appreciation for optimistic people is enormous, especially those who can remain optimistic in the face of what we are experiencing in our world right now. It’s not that I can’t be optimistic but I wouldn’t describe myself as someone to whom it comes naturally. My closest friend is an optimistic person. She seems to emanate light wherever she goes and with whomever she’s with. I call her “my ball of sunshine” but I really mean it. She looks to see the best side of everything and everyone. This isn’t to say she doesn’t have bad days or doesn’t get upset or angry. Her optimism is authentic and most of her is made up of that “joie de vivre” that people find so attractive. She calls it her champagne bubbles of joy.
I began wondering if this is something that one is born with or if one can acquire it. The more digging I did, the more I became fascinated with where optimism comes from. Is it a happy childhood? Nature vs. nurture? Brain chemistry?
I started to ask optimistic people where they thought their optimism comes from. Good relationships and connection with others was universal among all of them. (Optimistic people don’t tend to be loners.) Having the presence of gratitude was another. Cultivating a gratitude list isn’t a difficult task but really authentically embodying it may be a bit more difficult.
This is where the shadow can play a role. Your shadow self knows the truth of your emotions, subliminal and subconscious thoughts and feelings that lie beneath the conscious mind, and I’ve heard many people I know say that they make a gratitude list by rote: family, friends, job, etc., but that they don’t always “feel” it.
To feel gratitude sometimes may require a deeper dive. Thinking about each of the things you’re grateful for and listing three reasons why you’re grateful for that thing/person can help you connect to your gratitude in a visceral way. In other words, I can say I’m grateful for Thanksgiving but until I’m specific about why (Sharing good food, spending time with family, long walks or long chats by the fireplace) I won’t embody my gratitude.
Optimism and gratitude really do go hand in hand. Feeling our gratitude as opposed to thinking about what we’re grateful for brings more optimism to our lives. And for that, this Thanksgiving, we can be grateful.
PS. Did you see my Limitless Self Program