One of my favorite stories on this topic is by Ruth Jones, who wrote in our book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness, about how she deliberately and methodically introduced gratitude into her life. In "The Great Thanksgiving Challenge" Ruth describes how she and her friend Marilyn were sitting in a coffee shop complaining about everything they had to do. Marilyn was bemoaning all the preparation required to have her friends over for her book group meeting, and Ruth was dreading the work required to have her whole family come for Thanksgiving. She and Marilyn listed what that meant: "Cooking and cleaning, changing sheets, wondering what to feed everybody for breakfast."
Then a bedraggled woman entered the coffee shop, obviously homeless. Marilyn headed for the counter and paid for the woman's breakfast. When Ruth complimented her, Marilyn said, "That was guilt."
Ruth realized that she and Marilyn had fallen into a bad habit of complaining about their lives, which were full of family and friends, nice homes and good food. "We should stop complaining, it's a bad habit," she said. They decided to give up complaining for Thanksgiving. Marilyn laid out their challenge: "We'll keep a diary. Write down every complaint. Then think of something to be thankful for, and write that down too."
The next morning Ruth called Marilyn. "I've been awake 15 minutes and all I've done is complain," she admitted. "This is hard!"
Marilyn laughed. "Okay, quick, what are you thankful for?"
"I'm talking on the phone with my best friend and the cat is purring in my lap. What about you?" asked Ruth.
"I'm drinking coffee in a warm kitchen and about to go work out," Marilyn answered. "See? This won't be so hard after all."
Ruth said, "It was hard to believe I complained so much about trivial things. Hard to believe I wasn't more thankful for my family, my friends and my health. My mind kept wandering back to the homeless woman."
As the weeks passed, Ruth and Marilyn noticed their notebooks recorded more blessings than complaints. They had better attitudes and they were looking forward to the rest of the holiday season. Counting your blessings really works!
As Gerald Good said, "If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily."
For a similar story read, "Entering the Thankful Zone" by Jeannie Lancaster.
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