It’s normal, even routine, to focus on being grateful for the things you have in your life this time of year. As Americans, we devote an entire day to celebrate being thankful (even if it does feel eclipsed by Black Friday deals!), and many choose to incorporate some sort of gratitude practice into their daily routine for the entire month – which is a wonderful practice to do. In fact, getting into the practice of not only practicing gratitude, but also becoming a more generous person, leads to an even more fulfilling trait – contentment.
The saying goes, “comparison is the thief of joy” – and it’s absolutely true. We compare our situation to others, and immediately feel inadequate, or like we should be further along than we are. We resent the fact that others seem to be winning at life – their careers, their family, their finances – while we are barely scraping by. And everyone feels this way from time to time – it may not be about the same specific area, but everyone feels it nonetheless. The explosion of social media over the past ten to fifteen years has only compounded the problem, as well!
So how do we combat the comparison game? By getting into the daily habit of practicing gratitude. Take a few minutes at the start of your day, and list a few things that you feel grateful for right at that moment. Write them down – this cements these feelings further, and you can even look back on them from time to time, to remind yourself of all the things you’re thankful for. It can be as mundane as finding a $5 bill in your pants pocket while doing laundry! List anything and everything out. I think that, over time, your list is going to lengthen, and that feeling of gratitude will stay with you throughout the day.
As your feelings of gratitude develop and strengthen, it is natural to want to share that feeling and experience with others. And that is where generosity comes in. Again, these can be simple, small acts of generosity – and they don’t always have to be monetary. Share your time – volunteer for service events. If you are a Christian, and the act of tithing is part of your practice, be faithful in this area – it is the one area in the Bible where God calls believers to test Him in. Malachi 3:10 says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this“, says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
What an amazing promise! And this is the thing about any act of generosity – whether religious or not – it impacts the giver far more than the one receiving the gift. The times in my life when I have been impacted most by gratitude and contentment are those times when I gave of my time, energy, and finances – especially when volunteering for those less fortunate. I was so rewarded by the sheer joy they had at the time I gave to them, whether it was visiting an assisted living facility weekly in college, or assisting those devastated by Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys in the cleanup of their properties. My life was forever changed in those moments.
So, if you are searching for increased contentment in your life during the upcoming holiday season, remember these two things: 1.) get into the daily habit of practicing gratitude, even for the little things, and 2.) be generous with what you have, and it will come back to you in spades. You will feel more contented, I can promise you that.
Do you have any practices that increase your feelings of contentment? I’d love to hear about what has worked for you! Feel free to share in the comments below!