What Do Gratitude, Thanksgiving, and Contentment Have In Common?
They are a combination of feelings, attitudes and behaviors.
They are not the result of a perfect life. They are the result of a full life.
Contentment is the choice to be at peace with yourself and at peace with the world around you.
Webster’s unabridged dictionary defines contentment as “rest or quietness of the mind in one’s present condition.”
We live in a treadmill culture that won’t allow us to feel contentment until our lives are perfect. Contentment is your choice to be at peace with yourself and the world around you –
- before you earn that million dollars
- before you end world hunger
- before you find that right partner
- before you establish world peace
It’s hard to be grateful without contentment. The opposite is also true. And without these 2 attitudes and feelings our expressions of thanksgiving are empty. They go nowhere because they don’t come from the right source – gratitude and contentment.
“You can resent your bald spot or you can be glad you have a head.” Timothy Miller
In my own experience, something very interesting happens the instant I choose to be content. Rather than leading to apathy or indifference (contentment is not complacency), I find myself energized and enthusiastic. I feel more instead of just trying to feel better.
I begin to enjoy what is instead of trying to make something into what it isn’t.
The ancients remind us of these principles that do not change.
Buddhism and Hinduism –
Contentment is revered as a worthy goal in its own right, based on an understanding that all there is is all there is, and all there is is enough.
Traditional Passover Ritual—
Jews the world over sing the thousand year old song Dayenu, a word which translates roughly as “that would have been enough.” If that’s all that God had done for them, that would have been enough (even though He did more). It’s in the chorus and repeated several times. The song is a reminder that although we can content ourselves with any one of God’s blessings, the blessings always keep on coming.
Jesus describes the abundance of contentment in his Sermon on the Mount, when he says “For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.” In other words, when we cultivate discontentment, we eventually come to realize that no matter how much we accumulate or achieve, we will never fill the inner void with more outer stuff.
Eventually social science works its way around to confirming eternal truths. So it is with gratitude, contentment, and thanksgiving. We now know what we always knew — they are a winning combination. Putting them together is like nuclear fusion – they get exponentially strong and take on a life of their own – a full and abundant life.
An article in a psychological journal a few years ago noted that “throughout history, religious, theological and philosophical treatises have viewed gratitude as integral to well-being.” Psychology has recently worked to quantify the wisdom of the ages and confirmed — sure enough — it was correct. Thanks for the reminder!
A raft of recent research has established that grateful, contented, and thankful people are happier people. They are less depressed and less stressed. They are less likely to envy others and more likely to want to share. They even sleep better.
One thing is for sure…
You will never be happy with wealth if you are miserable with modest means
When we cultivate contentment (by taking the time to really be present with what we already have), we get to have more and more and more.
Contentment is the cure. Gratitude is the pathway. Thanksgiving is the expression. It’s a winning combination.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!