It was the week after Halloween and I ran to a few stores for some Thanksgiving decorations. After two stores, I found myself in the midst of red, green, Santa, and tinsel. I even asked for Thanksgiving decorations, and was directed to the back of the store, where I found….nothing. I left disappointed.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. It is one of my favorite times of the year: the music, the food, the decorations and gifts! I love celebrating the birth of the Savior and having the opportunity to spend with family and friends. This is not a knock on Christmas.
But, I kind of feel that Thanksgiving has been given the short end of the stick. It’s stuck right between Halloween and Christmas, and, well, honestly, hasn’t anyone ever thought “Do I really HAVE to cook all that food this year? Can’t we just go out to eat?” Have you ever sat at the table after eating and thought, “I can’t do it. I cannot wash ALL those dishes.”? One year I even found that in the rush to get all the food on the table, we had forgotten to say what we were grateful for. We were so excited to eat before the mashed potatoes got cold that we had forgotten to share our gratitude.
I have also noticed Black Friday shopping encroaching on Thanksgiving day. Now it starts the week before in the form of pre-black Friday deals, then completely blacks out Thanksgiving evening, and some stores start in the morning! A few years ago it started at midnight on Thanksgiving, then 10 pm and now…well honestly! Now I don’t have time to “do” Thanksgiving as I have to get my shopping done.
So, I started thinking about this conundrum. I realized maybe I have been missing Thanksgiving more than just the fourth Thursday in November. Research shows that happiness is a skill. Showing gratitude and expressing it to the people around us literally has a positive effect on our well-being. We can “choose” to see the brighter side of life and feel thankful in our hearts. I am reminded of the scripture “…men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2: 25). I used to think that meant we were supposed to be happy, that it was an inalienable right given to all of us – and I felt cheated! Over the years, I have realized that it is a gift. But it is more like a seed that Heavenly Father has given us, and He expects us to be the gardeners. To see the “fruit”, we have to plant, water, care, and wait.
I have to work on my happiness daily. It doesn’t come naturally to me. I used to pride myself on being a realist. I wasn’t a pessimist, just able to look at things “realistically”. It has been shown that realists are typically right more often than optimists. Sadly though, being right doesn’t equal being happy. Sure, they may be right, but they are “right” in a dark room…alone…with a dead plant (ha ha). I can make that joke because I have been in that room, and occasionally I still visit!
I don’t have the green thumb for happiness that some people have (i.e. see paragraph 3 for a glimpse into my thought processes). So, I have to make a conscious, daily effort. Through gratitude, self-talk and a lot of work, my happiness meter is increasing. Just like that search for Thanksgiving decorations in the store, I sometimes come out empty-handed. But, I won’t give up the fight. I don’t want to go through life with my glass half-empty and my Thanksgivings without decorations. I don’t want to be missing thanksgiving this year.
Where is your happiness meter? How do you create your “happy”?