Observe an attitude of gratitude all year

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monarch on New England aster

November is upon us. The crispness of fall is in full glory. Hay season is subsiding. Grain harvest is moving along slowly. 

Even if the workload on the farm slows down after harvest, we still feel rushed as daylight fades earlier and earlier each day. 

Everyone I talk to is waiting for a time when life will slow down, and they can take a deep breath, enjoying that feeling of accomplishment that the hard work has been worth the effort, that they’ve made it to where they want to be. 

If only we could feel a little of that feeling every day. Come to think of it, what’s stopping us? 

Maybe observing a little more of an attitude of gratitude could help us through those days when the workload is too heavy, and the world is too hard.

Gratitude scavenger hunt

Taking a few minutes each day to appreciate the little things that blend into the canvas of the day may be just what we need. 

A couple years ago just before Thanksgiving, my daughter brought home a “Gratitude Scavenger Hunt” paper from pre-school. In 2019 and 2020, we did the scavenger hunt together on Thanksgiving Day. 

I found it again today and thought, this could be done anywhere anytime. 

Why not in the pasture? That would be a good way to pause, take a deep breath and soak up the moment. 

Let’s do it together and see if it works. 

Find something outside that you enjoy looking at. I pick trees. I enjoy watching the leaves rustle in the wind and watching for wildlife that moves from the cover of the woodland to a grassy meadow. 

Find something that is useful for you. I pick my boots. Whatever the weather or the terrain, they wait by the door each morning ready for the day ahead. 

Find something that is your favorite color. I enjoy the purple blooms of fading flowers like ironweed or New England aster or the changing leaves of sumac or sweetgum in the tree line. 

Find something that makes you happy. I enjoy watching animals grazing on a buffet of fresh grass; it makes me feel content. 

Find something that makes you laugh. I choose my daughter. The way she talks to and cares for her animals is as comedic as it is endearing. 

Find something in the morning that you enjoy. I enjoy seeing dew drops or frost crystals clinging to blades of grass. 

Find a friend or a pet that you love spending time with. I love Bandit and Brindle, my trusty couple of German Shepherd mutts. 

Find something that tastes good. Beef. Lamb. Chicken. Turkey. Venison. Wild chives. Shall I go on? 

Find something that you love doing outside with friends. Well, I am an extension educator, so I have to say a good pasture walk and talk checks the box. 

Find something that you are grateful for. I am grateful for the land beneath my feet. 

Managing mental health

Usually, this column is bursting with advice on how to better manage your pasture or your livestock, but today it is about managing your mental and emotional stress. 

Physicians, philosophers and priests all agree that the practice of expressing gratitude improves your physical and mental well-being. 

It doesn’t have to be done in a counselor’s office or a pew. It can be done in the pasture. It can happen in the cab of a tractor, the seat of a side-by-side, the back of a four-wheeler, on a fence line, at the dinner table, or wherever you have a few seconds to pause. 

Regularly taking time to be grateful for big and little things in your life can lead to increased optimism, motivation, satisfaction, self-esteem and confidence while decreasing feelings of frustration, envy and regret. 

Mutual appreciation and expression of gratitude leads to healthier relationships. Simply listing things you are thankful for before bed can help you achieve more restful sleep. 

There are thousands of ways to express gratitude and there are 365 days in the year. Don’t wait for Thanksgiving to be thankful. Don’t stop being thankful when the table is cleared. 

Your livestock and crops probably won’t thank you for the gesture, but if you keep that attitude of gratitude all year long your body, your mind, and the people you love sure will. 

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