thankful design on wood board

4 Often Overlooked Things to Be Thankful For

Your mind has the power to influence your choices, and you can use it to further what you’re grateful for, or what you wish you had. Instead of using your mind to merely concoct a pipe dream, use it to be thankful for the people and blessings already surrounding you.

person standing outside at sunset while holding hands out

Gratitude doesn’t always come naturally. In fact, in today’s world of 24/7 communication, advertising, and media consumption, it can be a challenge to feel grateful for even the most basic gifts in life, such as a homecooked meal or the chance to unwind with a loved one. That being said, when Thanksgiving starts to roll around each year, you may feel as though “thankfulness” has become drab and commercialized–making true gratitude seem rare.

One of the best ways to reignite genuine feelings of gratefulness is to practice gratitude for an area of life you may not normally consider. There’s nothing wrong with being thankful for friends, family, or your work, but sometimes you need that extra edge for real gratitude to spark. Read on to discover four often overlooked things to be thankful for.

woman relaxing in chair near jungle

Free time

Market research firm OnePoll recently found that the average working American has only four and a half to five hours of free time per week. About 40 percent of those surveyed reported having even less time to themselves each week.

With such a staggering statistic on free time, it’s easy to see why you’d be reaching for more, given the opportunity. Yet, how often do you take time to appreciate the free time you do have? Too often, by the moment free time arrives, one may feel “hurried” about it–as though it’s somehow best to occupy it with more activities.

This week, instead of rushing to fill your free time with more “stuff,” take that opportunity to do something you normally wouldn’t, such as reading a book, going for a walk, taking a nap, or doing something creative. And be sure to give yourself enough time, so you don’t need to watch the time pass! Free time is a rare gift these days; be thankful when you have it!

friends sitting outside on mountain

People who are interested in you and ask questions

As you go through life and develop friendships, find work responsibilities, and perhaps pursue romance, it can be easy to take friends for granted. Friendships often appear when you discover shared interests among a group of people you spend a lot of time with. As that time passes—if friends don’t move on—it can become easy to see them permanently stationed in the same place in your life, if not in your mind. As you get to know your friends, it may become less common that you ask each other questions that show you’re truly invested in each other.

As a result, you may regard your friends as the “same people they’ve always been”—instead of asking them about what’s been going on in their lives or what they think about a particular topic. If you have a friend who asks you interesting questions, consider them a blessing. Not many people go out of their way to ask more than “How’s it going?” or “How are you?” A friend that remembers what you discussed last time you spoke or something you mentioned that’s important to you is a true friend.

woman journaling with coffee cup on bed

Your mind

So often, we get enamored with and caught up in the material possessions around us–or else we get jealous of the possessions others have. The average American consumer now experiences anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000 ads per day. Long gone are the days of seeking out new products and experiences; chances are, advertisers are beating a path to your door whether you like it or not. Today’s media landscape is constantly trying to tell you what to think, and as a result, your mind can feel increasingly cluttered.

This year, instead of allowing advertisers to influence what you think at every turn, give your mind a chance to breathe. Take a piece of paper and write down everything you wish you had, but don’t have. The idea is to materialize the wishes (and sometimes anxieties) in your head so they can be put in their proper place. Chances are, as the list grows, you’ll see that the things you want aren’t usually the things you need. This is a wonderful thing! Looking through each item, ask yourself, “Do I really need this, or is this desire actually influenced by materialism?”

Your mind has the power to influence your choices, and you can use it to further what you’re grateful for, or what you wish you had. Instead of using your mind to merely concoct a pipe dream, use it to be thankful for the people and blessings already surrounding you. With a new perspective, you’ll discover aspects of your life and friendships you never took the time to see before. It can be quite the surprise!

selective focus on leaves outside in forest during fall

Difficult circumstances

As the old adage goes, if you haven’t fallen on hard times recently, they’ll be coming for you at some point. As harsh as that is to accept, everyone goes through at least a few difficult seasons in their lives—sometimes without explanation.

In moments of hurt and need, it can be difficult to feel thankful for anything. Indeed, experiencing a hardship should not be wished upon anyone, and yet they still happen. Perhaps you have already gone through a trial in life, whether it be financial strain, a relational breakdown, a health complication, family stress, or another event. It is also easy to “catastrophize” – to let your mind indulge the mental fallacy that one difficulty in life will endlessly lead to another, causing certain demise.

the words expressing gratitude in selective focus on book page

If you only exhibit gratitude when things go well, it can become difficult—perhaps impossible—to discover the seed of thankfulness within hardship. Someone wise once said, “Two things define you: your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everything.” Indeed, your outlook when life is hard tells a lot about what you are grateful for. Instead of only grumbling and griping about what has happened, try to find at least one silver lining in the midst of the chaos. If you pause long enough to reflect on how your changed surroundings may have uncovered a blessing, gratitude may not be so far off. Hardships have the power to create this kind of humility that leads to thankfulness.

If natural-born gratitude still seems tough, remember that Jesus faced all of the same trials and temptations that any human today faces. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Jesus practiced gratitude in all things, and He has given the power to you to do the same.

Brad has been tech support at a library and school, organized non-profit events generating $27,000+, has self-published 12 books, and plays heavy metal drums. When he's not working or doing any of the above, you can find him with his wife Lucy, or their two bunnies, Fuzzy and Wuzzy.

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