The Art of Thanksgiving

You don’t know how good you got it until it’s gone.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned in my life so far has been to be grateful for every experience, everything, and every moment of life. Since the transitioning period of my life from teenager to adult, I seemed to have lived a life that kept its focus onto the next chapter of life. There’s always something that I would dream that I could have, whether a dream job, a better vehicle, new sports equipment and different experiences. Now, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. To have goals and to achieve something you really want is definitely encouraged, but there comes a point where it just over consumes your life that you miss certain things that are truly more important.

Everyone knows the phrase, stop and smell the roses. Think back. When was the last time you did that? Life is busy, and we often are running from point A to B. When we do this, we often fly over things we have no idea are there. You see this quite often in cities especially during rush hour when people are rushing to get to work or vice versa. People are usually concentrated on the destination rather than the journey. I can guarantee you that many people will miss interesting stores or shops, maybe landmarks and attractions, simply because they are focused on the destination.

I can attest to this in many ways, one of which is when I hike. I would say that I used to hike to either finish the trail quickly or just to get to the main focal point and return. I essentially would just walk and often stare at the ground or a certain point the whole time. Not until recently, I started hiking enjoying everything. I let my eyes wander around my surroundings more, looking for things to jump out at me (such as bears). I stop frequently when I see something that catches my eye. Most importantly, I make myself aware of the environment that I am in. When I breathe, I think about how crisp the air is, and I appreciate how lucky I am to be out on the trail. I let myself be curious. If I see something interesting, I will go and investigate it. If there’s a nice view, I will sit there and enjoy it for a while, not just snap a picture and keep going. Once I started to stop and smell the roses (literally, especially out in wild rose country in Alberta) I actually found that I had a completely different experience on the trail.

What’s the best way to notice if you have taken a place or experiences for granted? Go to that place or do that same thing again, but focus on the journey aspect over the ending. Then see if you discover something new, and if you do, see how much more value the overall experience will be. To me, that was a major eye opener. I love rediscovering places. It really shines a light to what a change in perspective can do.

Being outdoors is a natural de-stressor

Now in a bigger picture, I realized how much I took things in my past for granted. I find that many older people will share the same thought. Since I used to always look forward to something new, something different, and something “better” than my current situation, I lost opportunities that were right under my nose. Often times when I achieved things I longed for, I was hit with the initial happiness but it faded much rapidly then I would have anticipated. Once this settled in, I started to want the things from my past more. A good example of this was when I moved away from Alberta. I quickly realized that there were so many adventures I wish I would have done, but I didn’t. I was so occupied with the future, I rarely took the time to be grateful for what I had there. Now that being said, I believe things happen for a reason, and I could not be more grateful of where I am in life now. The thing is if I were to replay those past moments of my life again, I would change my attitude, to take in my surroundings and be grateful for everything there. I would go out and take full advantage of different experiences and potential adventures.

I shifted to living in the moment, and focusing on the little things in life more. I learned my lesson that living too fast will often leave you in regret when you’re older, wishing you did things differently. Instead I want to have those golden like experiences in the moment today. Yes I have goals and dreams as much as the next guy, but instead of longing for them and just focusing on achieving them, I take time to sit there and take in my current situations, and make the most out of everyday situations. The best way I find to do that is to be appreciative of everything you have, and think about how lucky you are in your situation. Even if you’re in a place in your life that’s not so great, for example you have a car that keeps breaking down on you, or you have a job you hate, or maybe deep personal situations are effecting you negatively, there’s always something to be happy and thankful for. I find that being thankful for what you have, better helps you overcome some of these difficult situations. It can give you a stronger will to improve yourself. Negativity will only make negative situations worse. It’s like feeding a fire with fire. To put out a flame, you need water. So, use positivity as your tool to get out of tough times, and being grateful is an amazing way to channel in positivity into your day.

Nature is also an amazing way to bring in positivity into your life. Being outdoors is a natural de-stressor. Just like I mentioned earlier, when you go out and practice a little mindfulness, you can start to feel your worries slip away. Humans are wired to be close to nature, it is what is natural to our species. I often go out on adventures, usually a few times a week. I find that it helps me a lot in my life. Once I started to be more grateful out in nature, I found the experiences more enjoyable, and the healing qualities so much more effective. No matter if I am just going to a local neighbourhood park, or out to a big national park, the experiences and effects are similar to each other.

When you go out and practice a little mindfulness, you can start to feel your worries slip away

Today, I have no idea what my next chapter in life will be, or when it will happen. I know that there are things I would like to achieve and places I would love to go visit, such as the Torngat Mountains in Labrador. I will work to successfully reach those goals, however I will let time take its pace to reach them. The present moment is ultimately the most precious moment in our lives. We have control over it, and we have the ability to make it worthwhile. But often, it is overlooked, and taken for granted, and that my friends is a crucial part in what I believe is drowning our happiness in our lives. It fuels regret into our lives in the future as well. If you want to grow old and look back on all the awesome things you accomplished in your younger years, rather than sit there saying you wished you did things differently, then start by living your life now. There’s lots of elements to it, and being grateful is an integral part of it. So I challenge you to live more in the moment, take time to smell the roses, and be grateful for everything you got.