Perhaps as you look back on the last 12 months, you see a lot of ordinary moments but nothing extraordinary. Or maybe you're considering that it would be easier to make a list of disappointments and difficulties instead of listing off the things you’re thankful for this year.
And while our difficulties are real, we know there is motivating power from looking for and appreciating the small miracles in life. To help you get started, here are 10 blessings I think we sometimes overlook; blessings that nearly all of us have been given. given.
1. Our futures
Seeing the hand of God in the rearview mirror of our lives can be easy. But staring into the unknown, the trials that await us, and the uncertainty of life can be incredibly daunting. But on the opposite side of the same coin, there are so many blessings in our future that we do know about, like opportunities to learn, the beauty of growth and progression, and our untapped—quite literal—divine potential. Not to mention all the blessings awaiting us after our time on earth: the promise of exaltation, a heaven filled with the people we love, and an eternity alongside our loving heavenly parents and our Savior, Jesus Christ.
2. Our emotions
Our emotions are often a double-edged sword. Many of us understand feelings of grief, sorrow, doubt, pain, anguish, loss, and sadness all too well. But we also know this truth: “There is an opposition in all things. If not so … righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad.” So on those rough days, even if you can't find gratitude immediately, take a grain of comfort knowing you can feel something. We often express gratitude for our physical bodies, and with a healthy, physical body comes the emotions of life's roller-coaster ride. Emotion is part of what makes us human and teaches us empathy. And on the days that feel especially good or happy, take special note to say an extra prayer of gratitude.
3. Our personalities
Your personality—your interests, ambitions, habits, preferences, skills, and qualities—is what makes you truly YOU. It's what draws others to you, it shapes your days, and it's exactly how Heavenly Father intended you to be. Take inventory of the pieces of your personality you appreciate: Are you a hard worker? Are you the life of the party? Are you quietly compassionate? Are you a voracious student? Are you humble? Are you kind? Are you reflective? Are you a loyal friend? Are you service-oriented? Are you punctual? Are you a peacemaker? Once you have a solid list of your favorite personality traits—either mentally or physically written down—consider expressing gratitude for some of those gifts that help define who you are.
4. Our senses
We sing Primary songs about appreciating blue skies, lilac trees, and the songs of birds, and expressing gratitude for nature is a phrase we often hear in prayers. But have you ever considered sharing your thanks for the physical senses you’ve been given that allow you to experience the beauty of nature? The gifts of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell—alongside the gift of a physical body that allows you to be in nature—are all precious and often overlooked.
In the same vein as your emotions, laughter is such a gift and something we can be grateful for. The ability to enjoy a joke, find humor in an embarrassing situation, or cherish innocence with others creates such a deeply humanizing connection that we can't help but bond with those individuals. In fact, studies have shown that some of our strongest long-term memories are rooted in situations filled with laughter. So if the sweet potatoes catch on fire in the oven or your niece paints her entire head (hair included) in cranberry sauce, try to find humor in the situation. Snap a picture of your niece for memory's sake—and be grateful you can laugh this one off.
In his October 2008 conference talk, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul." The ability to create something—anything really—“brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment,” in Elder Uchtdorf's words. “[And] everyone can create. You don’t need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty.”
The universality of creation means that it has no limits. At its most basic level, creativity is bringing into existence something that did not exist before. Elder Uchtdorf gives examples like “colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter, … try to see how many smiles you can create, write a letter of appreciation, learn a new skill, identify a space and beautify it.” And the ability to be creative, to think outside the box in any way, shape, or scenario, is an incredible gift.
7. Time with loved ones
We've recently had some health scares in my extended family that have made all of us a little more aware of just how fragile life is and how lucky we are to be able to spend time with the people who mean the most to us. While some people consider the holidays to be a time to "grin and bear it" when it comes to interacting with family, if you fall into that mindset, try taking a step back from some of those differences of opinions or awkward conversations. Take this year as an opportunity to appreciate the positive things these people bring into your life and try to look for the good in everyone at your Thanksgiving table.
8. Second chances
You’ve no doubt heard the phrase, “Every day is a new day,” which is the epitome of what we believe about repentance. But in the grand scheme of things, do you actually believe it and live it? And if you do believe in repentance and the opportunity for true second chances, are you grateful for it?
In a 1980 devotional given at Brigham Young University, President Jeffrey R. Holland shared, “When you get home tonight, you fall on your knees and thank your Father in Heaven that you … have grasped a gospel that promises repentance to those who will pay the price. Repentance is not a foreboding word.… Repentance is simply the scriptural invitation for growth and improvement and progress and renewal. You can change! You can be anything you want to be in righteousness.”
9. Access to information
Sometimes gratitude requires changing our perspective. What we sometimes view as a negative—an "information overload"—can go under-appreciated when we consider the circumstances required to access the incredible amount of information available today.
Unbelievably, in 2023, only about 65% of the world’s population has access to the internet. And over 781 million adults around the world cannot read. So next time you pull up a map on your phone, type in a quick internet search, or open a how-to video, do it with a small smile of gratitude for technology and your nearly instantaneous access to a plethora of knowledge.
10. Unwavering support from heaven
The last and certainly not least—but maybe least considered—blessing we sometimes forget is the unfaltering, unconditional, dependable support we receive from heaven. I'll just leave you with a few Church leader quotes as a reminder of that love, because they have already shared it much more eloquently than I could.
“Do not misunderstand or devalue how important you are to your Father in Heaven. You are not an accidental by-product of nature, a cosmic orphan, or the result of matter plus time plus chance. Where there is design, there is a designer.”
–Elder Alan T. Phillips
“On occasions, global or personal, we may feel we are distanced from God, shut out from heaven, lost, alone in dark and dreary places. Often enough that distress can be of our own making, but even then the Father of us all is watching and assisting.”
–President Jeffrey R. Holland
“God is in His heaven. He lives. He knows and loves you. He is mindful of you. He hears your prayers and knows the desires of your heart. He is filled with infinite love for you.”
–Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf
And no matter where your heart is this Thanksgiving, don't forget Psalm 118:1—“O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever.” Instead of a charge to give thanks for the things God has done or given us, it's a request to give thanks for who God is—a merciful, unchanging, loving Lord. And that's always something we can be grateful for.