Times Change But Your Gratitude Doesn’t Have To

Until you learn to be grateful for the things you have, you will not receive the things you want.” – John Kralik, Author A Grateful Heart

Wow… 2020 has been quite the year!

Between the pandemic, politics, and protests, many of us are ready for 2021. With the COVID-19 pandemic throwing everything into chaos – from the economy to social gatherings – it may seem like there is little to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, as humans we’re hard-wired with a “negativity bias” and the news and social media don’t help.

Research shows that what we see on the news can significantly impact our mental health – keeping our focus on everything that’s going wrong with the world while blinding us to all the good. This just confirms what I’ve been feeling for a long time – the news and social media can be bad for your health.

We’re programmed to look for bad things in life as a defensive mechanism. Our brain rivets our attention on what’s wrong or what could go wrong to keep us on the lookout for danger. But beyond serving as a defensive mechanism, negativity bias can have the effect of making us miserable if we let it.

Chronic negativity bias makes it impossible for us to find joy in life.

I’m not going to lie. I’ve been bit by a little negativity bias this year. With limits to social gatherings across the country – stricter in some states than others – some of us may not be able to be with the loved ones we want to be with this Thanksgiving.

Personally, our family’s annual Thanksgiving gathering – usually involving 20+ (depending on who’s still dating or married to whom) consisting of relatives, friends, and pets – will be smaller this year.

Besides the restrictions on social gatherings this Thanksgiving, it’s likely we still won’t know who the President will be in 2021. Politics are a mess – with both sides acting like it’s Thanksgiving dinner. There’s cause for a lot of anxiety this Thanksgiving as a proverbial wrench has been thrown into our traditional plans.

Speaking of traditions, and this may seem trivial to some, but since I was a kid, I have never missed watching “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” on TV every year. Even as an adult, I’ve never missed it.

So, when it was announced earlier in the Fall that the Peanuts special would NOT be broadcast on network TV for the first time since 1973 when it debuted, I about had a breakdown. “Not the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving!” I shouted with hands raised to the sky.

It turns out, iPhone maker Apple had bought the exclusive rights to the special and would be offering it on its fledgling Apple TV+ streaming service. I don’t have Apple TV+. Damn tech companies! But then the good news came. PBS came to the rescue and just announced that they would be airing the special for the rest of us.

I bring up the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving because sometimes the way to counter negativity bias and not let it get the best of you is with gratitude and by looking on the bright side and knowing bad things don’t always mean the end of the world.

Author John Kralik had this to say about seeing the positive in life:  “Our natural tendency is to notice the nine bad things that happened to us each day, but instead what if we focused on the one good thing?”

It turns out, gratitude for that one good thing has the powerful effect of wiping out the nine bad things. There’s a whole field of psychology dedicated to the power of gratitude.

Gratitude is a powerful force and a force for outweighing the negativity in our lives.

Instead of focusing on not being with the ones we love this Thanksgiving, be grateful for those relationships. The pandemic can’t wipe out that bond. Be grateful for that bond because it will always be there. Instead of complaining about wearing a mask to the store, be grateful for the abundance and variety of all the food available to buy at that store to fill your Thanksgiving table.

This Thanksgiving, look for the good to counter the bad. Despite all the problems in the world, there is still much to be grateful for.

Another way to counter negativity bias is to do something positive.

Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or food bank to bring cheer to those who truly are down for the count. I don’t know how you come out of that experience with any negative thoughts or anything but gratitude for your own life.

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