Gratitude: Pumpkin Pie Mix In England

When the topic of Thanksgiving comes up, English people often say something like "Well, yes, that's your big holiday in America, much bigger than Christmas." I explain (time and again) that Christmas probably is still considered the big holiday so to speak, not just celebrated for relgious reasons anymore, and includes the same amount of consumerism and hype as Christmas in England: heaps of gifts, gingerbread cookies (instead of mince pies) and drunken office Christmas parties (although to be politically correct they are always called 'Holiday' parties).

But the secret is that in America Thanksgiving is everyone's favorite holiday. A scientific fact? Well, it's my favorite holiday, at least, and Thanksgiving Day is often one of the lower points of my year in England. I often spend it sitting at my desk, eating a Turkey sandwich while on the phone with my family, overhearing the arguments over the mashed potatoes. 

The reason why Thanksgiving is everyone's favorite is that there's no pressure, no hype. No gifts to buy, no cards to write and no office parties to feel embarrassed about the next day! All that's involved is getting together with family and friends, eating a delicious meal and feeling thankful for what you've got (and maybe watching some football).

The reason that I'm talking about Thanksgiving today? Well, today's topic is not actually Thanksgiving, but gratitude.

I'm taking part in an online series where bloggers interested in writing about self-discovery and building a healthy life all write a post that focuses on the same word each month. Ashley from Nourishing The Soul (which is a great blog, do check it out) is kicking things off, so click here to read more about it (bloggers and non bloggers alike are encouraged to participate, so if you'd like to write an entry, email it to Ashley by October 19).

When I started thinking about what gratitude meant to me, Thanksgiving did spring to mind. People living in countries where there is no lack of creature comforts, such as clean drinking water, food, shelter and clothing, can often lose sight of the fact that they have a lot to be grateful for. In fact, there's a holiday to remind us!

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is the psychological theory which states that when humans have their basic life functioning needs met, they move onto other worries, such as: why doesn't this guy or girl like me and am I really happy at my job and why don't all my bath towels match? (Generally -- it's a bit more involved, but you get the idea.)

Hence, it's easy to forget how much we actually have. You see it time and again -- people who seem to have so much less than we do but yet seem happier. What's the deal?

In a word, troubleshooting.

I give the author Richard Carlson credit for giving me some new novel ways to ponder life and happiness a few years ago (he's best known for his book Don't Sweat the Small Stuff). Carlson, wise sage, introduced me to the concept of thoughts creating feelings (which is probably too big of a topic to get into in this post, so I'll delve into it a bit deeper some other time).

Carlson defines troubleshooting as a socially acceptable form of mental illness.

"Troubleshooting is a way of life for many people," Carlson explains. "It means being on the look out for what's wrong, finding flaws, seeking out imperfections, pointing out potential pitfalls, finding fault, generating concerns, being a skeptic and remembering mistakes." (From his book Stop Thinking Start Living.)

And the trouble with troubleshooting? It doesn't feel very good and it doesn't make you a very fun person to be around. But gratitude, it's a very powerful thing -- it's the antidote to troubleshooting, because when you're feeling grateful, it's much much harder to find flaws.

Gratitude, as hard as it is for some people to stomach, consists of feeling grateful for yourself and the things around you (yes, everything) just as it is now. Not when you're 10 pounds lighter, or when you've found the man/woman of your dreams or when the commute into work suddenly becomes less stressful (i.e. when you have a limo and driver).

Gratitude is not counting down the days until Friday, when suddenly because you're not in the office you'll magically be happier. (OK, I like Fridays too, but I try to remind myself that I really don't want to live my life for two days out of seven.)

I think it's important to incorporate even a few tiny moments of gratitude into our daily life -- not just at Thanksgiving and not just when we're faced with losing something or someone. In fact, it's nearly impossible to feel miserable when you are having thoughts of gratitude (try it and see). When you think of all the things in your life that you are thankful for (even if you think they're hard to find), it is a moment when you can't be thinking about your pet peeves or what you view as your shortcomings. It's a small moment of peace that you can have right this very moment and nothing has to change. In a society that often gets a little obsessed with self-improvement, striving, seeking, and the accumulation of just about anything, it's a radical idea.

Just like pumpkin pie. Which, to the English, seems a little bit crazy (just ask Future Hub). But, you can buy Libby's pumpkin pie mix in London at Waitrose and Partridges (which I'm very grateful for), just in case you're ever stuck here for Thanksgiving -- heck, let me know and I'll have you over!


  1. Thank you so much for participating! I loved reading your perspective on gratitude and how its an antidote to "troubleshooting" - a concept I'd never heard of but love! Interesting, I just started today reading a book by Carlson's now widowed wife. Hopefully her words are as powerful as his (and yours!) =)

  2. Thanks for alerting me to the fact that she has a new book out. I know she co-wrote at least one book with him (before his sudden death a few years ago). Let me know how you find it -- I just read an article about it and it looks like something I'd like to read.

    Looking forward to reading the gratitude roundup next week!

  3. Fellow Self-Discovery: Gratitude participant here, just stopping in to read and say hi. :)

    "Gratitude is not counting down the days until Friday, when suddenly because you're not in the office you'll magically be happier."

    You are so right! And that's such an important distinction. Gratitude for the now is real; gratitude for the future is exactly the opposite of the point. Well said!

    (Also, super cute blog title! Hehehe, "scroll.")


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