How to Be Thankful Despite a Messy Life

It is now November. Do you know what that means? November means the wind is getting harsher, the temperature is getting colder, you’re getting crabbier and the workload is getting heavier. If you are a college student, this time of the year is bittersweet because the holidays are approaching, but all you can focus on is all your school work and responsibilities that overwhelm you. How can you possibly stop stressing or find anything to be thankful for when you don’t even have a moment to think? Why even bother trying to be thankful? Is there anything to be thankful for at a time like this?  Luckily, everyone can find something to be thankful for, no matter their circumstances. Reminding yourself of what you’re thankful for is actually a really effective and important tool in your life, especially this November season. The reason for this is because thinking like this can actually have amazing benefits to your health and productivity. Not only will reminding yourself of thankful moments keep your mind mentally clear to take on all those tasks ahead, but it also helps put stress in perspective, so you can cope with it better as well as the rest of your life. Being thankful doesn’t mean you have to have an easy life, sometimes it is in the hardest moments that being thankful is the most useful or effective. Being thankful helps you be more resilient, kinder to yourself and able to take on the day and months ahead with a clear head and open heart.  

So how do you begin to find things to be thankful for when your life feels like a mess? Well, like anything overwhelming, try to make it easier on yourself, get organized and start simple. It can be through internal dialogue or through writing lists down before bed, whatever method, stick to it daily and take time to really think about things to be thankful for. Compartmentalize all the factors in your life that make up who you are, where you’ve been and where you hope to go and then break down why they matter or how they’ve affected you. You can organize in many ways, maybe you make lists from the personal to people, to interests or basic life necessities you are thankful for.

Maybe you make a list of all the traits of your personality that you are thankful for, physical or personality wise, that makes you uniquely you. Being thankful for who you are will help carry how you behave, how you feel about others and your inner monologue has a tremendous impact on how you respond to what you cannot control. But it shouldn’t stop at you. Maybe you make another list of just the people in your life you’re thankful for and why you are thankful for them. This can be people you’ve known since childhood, to people you lost who cannot see again, to people you turn to first at the first sign of stress or trouble. Appreciating others helps you be kinder when the world is less so. And when you are kind, the world has a way of thanking you for it if you give it time. 

But most importantly, kindness can spread and in that thankful mentality and kindness, you are less focused on the negative. In addition to yourself and other people, you could also make a different list of the basic things that you often take for granted, that you are glad you have on a daily basis if thanking others is too difficult or isn’t sufficient enough. Keep it simple, you could even be thankful for a bed to sleep in, air to breathe or a beating heartbeat. Be as specific or personal as you need to in order to really put your life into perspective. By being thankful or recognizing the “little” things in your life, you will be that much more appreciative of the rest of your life’s moments and help keep you from feeling even more lost as you push through the semester and head into the holiday season.

Another way to remain thankful even when life gets messy is to work to stop comparing yourself to others. With social media naturally making this a near impossibility, the best way to tackle the mindset is to limit time online and check in with yourself in your own head as you go about your life. If you see someone and are about to compare yourself to them, stop and think. How is comparing myself helpful and how will it benefit me? Why did I think it would? It is not effective so take yourself out of the habit over time.

Being thankful is best practiced if you have a method to do so. So, make a method that works for you. Start internally and move outward. Take steps every day to catch yourself when you become negative or overwhelmed. Then take a second and reevaluate the instance and bring up a component about yourself or your life you are thankful for. It could be as small as saying you are grateful for being inside your class while it is cold outside, to being thankful that you still have both parents alive. Whatever it may be, take a moment to think of it and move forward. If this method is too challenging to start, start small. Maybe you make a list over the course of the month, one thankful idea at a time that you write down each day. Maybe you write a list in one sitting and read it to yourself when you are particularly stressed or overwhelmed. Whichever method you choose, be consistent and make it a habit. You will be amazed at how being thankful can change your life.

By ending comparisons and breaking down all parts of your life and what you appreciate about it, you can succeed in life even if it remains a mess. This is because being thankful isn’t about perfecting your life, but realizing that being imperfect makes you human, and that like every day before it, you will get through life’s challenges. Being thankful is about appreciating it all because there are too many unknowns to let you hold yourself back. And before you know it, November will be over, and you will be a more thankful person, and someone you are prouder of becoming.

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