Today’s guest post is by singer/songwriter Mia Angelakos. Follow her on twitter @miaangelakos

Two of the most powerful words I’m glad my parents taught me: THANK YOU.

It doesn’t come naturally. Throughout those first few years of existence, everything is handed to us. We’re clothed with baby swag. Constantly fed and changed. Even our rear ends powdered to keep us comfortable. Transported around by our own personal chauffeurs and fawned over like miniature celebrities. We may not recall all the details of how the transition happened. But gradually our vocabulary grew to from “NO” and “MINE” to “PLEASE” and “THANK YOU.” Eventually, entitlement wore off, and we became grateful for what was given to us. Instead of automatically thinking about ourselves and how our desires are being met, our thought pattern began to shift. Our focus changed to one of gratefulness.

Sometimes we utter those two words out of sheer habit or expectation…or just plain not wanting to come across as impolite. A co-worker gives you the file you need to complete a project. A stranger opens the door when you know they were in a hurry. Another vehicle allows a space so you can squeeze in during rush hour traffic. Cue doing the obligatory “thank you wave” in the rearview mirror.

We say “thank you” for gifts and moments of recognition. From the minute we get up in the morning till bedtime, there are dozens of opportunities to tell someone, “thank you.”

Whether it was out of necessity or sacrifice, someone took the time to pause and acknowledge you.

That makes me stop short when I really think about it.

Thankfulness is a reaction after receiving something. Someone else, busy with their own life, gave of their time, resources, or energy to impact mine for even a brief moment.

Sometimes the gratefulness I sense can feel overwhelming.

Life may be far from perfect. Finances may be tight. Maybe a scary health report came in. Perhaps there’s tension between family members. A friend might be trying to overcome addiction or depression. Another just lost their job right before the holidays. Maybe someone is experiencing the loneliest time of their lives.

Is it still possible to feel thankful in the middle of so much discouragement?

It’s ok to feel weary or upset when we’ve faced a tough situation. Let’s do our best not to stay down.

I’ve tried it both ways. I think every day is a choice which way we lean. Even during the most disappointing moments in my life, choosing thankfulness has been a thousand times the better option.

There’s a contentment that comes with thankfulness. Instead of seeing the lack in our lives, gratefulness shows off the abundance.

Just like when we were kids, thankfulness isn’t an automatic reaction. Especially on those hard days. But we can adjust! As soon as a negative thought comes in, push it away. Look for the good over the bad. Look for ways to shift the focus from “me” to “others.”

The verse that says “It’s more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) is real.

And that goes for more than gifts at Christmas.

It’s better all around and brings greater joy to give than to receive.

A friend of mine from childhood recently found out she has stage 4 cancer. She’s been one of those friends who has sharpened and encouraged me over the years. No one expects to get a diagnosis like this, but it really surprised me to hear it from her. When she called me to tell me the news, nothing negative came out of her mouth. She simply asked for prayer and said she wants to enjoy every day. Throughout radiation and chemo treatments, she’s honest about feeling tired or expressing different emotions that rise to the surface. But I’m inspired by the way she pulls her attention away from the cancer to focus on the good she has in her life. Each day is a gift, and she spends it on her husband, two small children, and others. In fact, a few weeks ago, my mailbox had a note with her handwriting. Receiving a “thank you card” from my lifelong friend fighting a disease as rough as cancer was one of the most sincere demonstrations of selflessness I’ve been given.

That kind of example is a sweet reminder to live every single day in a posture of thankfulness.

I encourage you to take a minute and jot down a few things you’re thankful for today.

Don’t just think it.

Write it out by hand.

Old school.

If you really want to go crazy, write down as many things that come to mind. If you’re a Floridian like me, the top of the list might include being thankful for Air Conditioning. Maybe specific people come into mind. Your parents and all they sacrificed to give you a better life than they had. Your spouse. Your kiddos.

Now take it one step further. Text them. A brief (or long) message letting them know you’re thinking of them and how grateful you are that they’re in your life. You can be sappy, silly or serious, but be sincere.

You might think it’s too much, but WHY NOT? What if that’s exactly what they needed to hear today? It’s always a good idea to remind someone how much they mean to you and how thankful you are for them.

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