There are countless things to be thankful for in life—so many, in fact, that if you tried to list them all, you’d have no time to actually enjoy any of them.
Chances are, though, that there are plenty of things that would never even get close to making your list because you either take them for granted, or you consider them undesirable.
What follows is a collection of 17 unusual things to be grateful for.
Some might challenge your way of thinking and others might trigger mini ‘aha’ moments in your mind.
So, without further ado…
1. The Diversity Of The Human Race
Too often we allow our differences to grow into sources of conflict and contention.
But if people weren’t all so unique and individual, the world would be a far less enjoyable place to live.
It’s the very fact that we all have different desires, talents, and points of view that promotes new and exciting experiences.
If you suck what’s unique out of us, the world would be a dull and uninspiring place to be.
Without such great variety of people and cultures, we would miss out on all the wonderful food, music, entertainment, and ideas that evolve from distinct ways of living and thinking.
We would be left with a bland and monotonous existence that lacks inspiration and stimulation.
Whether it’s our race, our customs, our talents, our age, or our dreams for the future, the unique gifts we possess make this a wonderfully rich and vivid world to live in.
There is something about the past that feels homely and comfortable, which is why we should rejoice in the traditions we observe.
Whether they are long-standing practices that have been passed down through the generations, or little things that you share with specific people, observing these rituals is a way to remember and respect that which has come before.
Traditions bind people together, giving them a sense of collective memory and belonging.
They keep us grounded, they remind us of valuable lessons, and they inspire responsibility to ourselves and to one another.
Observing traditions does not mean we have to let our minds dwell in the past. While we ought to remember the reasons for them, they should primarily act to enhance the enjoyment we experience in the present moment.
On the flip side of the coin from tradition is our ability to innovate and progress towards solutions to the problems we face.
The lifestyle that many of us are blessed with is only possible because of the free-thinking, forward-looking, ingenious minds of the innovators.
We are able to live longer and healthier lives than previous generations (even if we don’t all choose to), we can travel to and communicate with far off places at ease, we enjoy a huge array of material comforts that never used to exist, and we have far more choice than any one person could need.
There are also the intellectual pioneers—those who have shaped our societies and our cultures, those who have expanded our understanding of the universe, and those who explore the very meaning of our existence within it.
Since the dawn of time, there have been innovators, and without them we would never have moved forwards as a species.
We’d probably still be living in caves somewhere.
4. The Seasons
While less tangible in some parts of the world than others, most of us enjoy a degree of variability in our weather as the Earth orbits the Sun and the seasons pass accordingly.
We should be thankful for the changes that happen throughout the year because they remind us that time is forever moving forwards.
As winter turns to spring and then to summer and autumn, we experience different thoughts and emotions.
This ceaseless rhythm propels us into the future, but it also makes us cherish the present.
As with people, the variety in our weather provides ample enjoyment and opportunity that would otherwise be lacking. The cold, the warm; the wet, the dry, the windy, the calm—they all give us reason to be cheerful.
We get to enjoy the crispness of a winter morning, the fragrance-filled air of spring, the liberating warmth of the summer sun, and the colorful spectacle of autumn leaves.
5. Personal Growth
Change is an essential part of life, and while our physical growth largely grinds to a halt when we reach a certain age, we are able to grow mentally, emotionally, and spiritually right up until the day we die.
This gift of never-ending renewal and development means we can always have something to look forward to, knowing that there is a new potential to strive towards.
If we peaked as individuals when we still had many years ahead of us, it would leave us feeling helpless and worthless as we accepted the inevitable decay to come.
Happily, however, we don’t have to accept anything of the sorts; we are forever capable of learning, changing, and improving ourselves as people.
Even when our minds begin to let us down, the capacity to evolve spiritually is never beyond us.
You may be wondering what emptiness is doing on a list of things to be thankful for.
Well, despite its association with suffering, unhappiness, and fear, feeling empty does not have to mean feeling bad.
On the contrary, it is often when we are able to rid ourselves of the burdens we carry—both emotionally and physically—that we are at our most content in life.
Emptiness is a way of expressing a desire to be free from worries, independent of material things, and in a state of mental stillness.
It is only when we stop identifying ourselves with what we are not that we can fully connect with what’s most real—the tangible experience of the present moment in its indescribable pureness.
Being empty means being open, it means allowing yourself to truly accept and embrace the situation as it is, without anxiety for the future or regrets about the past.
7. Our Senses
We often take them for granted, but much of our experience of life comes through our five senses.
We can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste the world around us, and while it is quite possible to be content without one or more of them, there is little doubt our senses enrich our enjoyment of life.
Just try to imagine what it would be like if you were no longer able to see the beauty of the natural world, hear the symphony of music, feel the touch of a loved one’s hand on yours, smell the sweet perfume of fresh flowers, or taste the flavors in every mouthful of food.
These innate abilities may seem trivial to us, but we must never take them for granted.
They are what connect us to the universe we live in, and we would be much poorer without them.
8. Random Acts Of Kindness
It goes without saying that when someone shows you kindness, you should respond with gratitude, and this is just as true—maybe even more so—when the act is spontaneous, random, or anonymous.
When a complete stranger offers you their help in some way, it can result in feelings of confusion or wariness which are quite natural.
If you look beyond these feelings, however, you will most likely find someone who is giving their time and attention out of the pure goodness of their heart.
Take a wider view and it becomes clear that all of these random acts of kindness, when added up, make a huge difference to the world we live in.
Their sheer unexpected nature makes them all the more powerful because no request was made and no previous connection existed between the helper and the helped.
So we should be extremely thankful, as a society, for the people who go out of their way to make a positive difference to the lives of others.
9. Charity Workers And Activists
Staying with the kindness theme, there are groups and individuals who are fighting tirelessly for causes that impact our society and the world beyond.
Many people who work for charities, for instance, are volunteers who lend their time to support organizations delivering care, aid, medical breakthroughs, and other fantastic services.
Without these generous souls, many of these operations would cease to exist.
Likewise, there are those individuals who are so passionate about a particular cause that they take it upon themselves to act where others won’t.
There is no doubt that these campaigners and activists are making a huge positive contribution through their work; they push for new laws, protect what needs protecting, and fight against immoral and unjust behavior.
For most of us, our involvement with charity stops at the occasional bake sale, sponsorship, or donation.
We are lucky to have such dedicated people picking up the slack and doing the things that we are unable to do ourselves.
We have become so obsessed with cleanliness and the eradication of all seemingly malicious substances, that we forget how reliant we are on basic bacteria living in and on us.
For all our physical and mental might, there is a good chance that the human race would never have existed were it not for the trillions of bacteria we are home to.
On our skin, in our guts, and in every cavity you care to imagine live a whole host of friendly bacteria that help us function.
As the pinnacle of life as we know it, we humans are prone to illusions of grandeur, but when you consider how our supposedly mighty race owes its existence to the humble bacteria, you can see why we should be thanking them for all their hard work.
11. Other Simple Organisms
It would be wrong to pay our respects to bacteria without acknowledging the vital role of all the simple organisms living on earth.
We may go on safari or watch nature documentaries to marvel at the animal kingdom, but how often do we think about the unseen, unloved mass of creatures that form the basis of all life?
From molds and fungi to plants and insects, the most basic of all living things deserve the greatest of respect.
It can be quite hard to fathom, but there really is a web of life; a complex relationship between every organism on this planet.
We take it all for granted, but if it weren’t for the likes of plankton and algae, we simply wouldn’t be here.
If that’s not a reason to be grateful, I don’t know what is.
12. Big Scares
We may not realize it at the time, but when we encounter something that really scares us, it can unleash all sorts of wonderful things in our lives.
Most commonly, it is instances that involve near death—either of ourselves or a loved one—that jolt us out of our listless existence and make us value every little detail from thereon in.
These events open our eyes and fill our hearts with a gratitude that might not have been there before.
Suddenly we are able to look at things through a whole new perspective and appreciate the people and things we have around us.
It might feel a little strange to be thankful for what is likely to be a highly distressing period, but if you emerge from it with greater zest for life, then this is something to celebrate.
After all, life cannot be defined by a single episode alone.
But with the right mindset you can take failure and turn it into something for which to be thankful.
Failing at something is likely to be quite unpleasant, but it confers a sense of humbleness upon us that remains throughout our lives.
It reminds us that much of the value lies in the trying and that even when we are unsuccessful, we can take a lot from the experience.
It makes us more likely to encourage others when they, too, are feeling resistant to opportunities in their life, and it can make us respect the effort that others put into their own ventures.
Nobody likes to feel rejected by another person, whether in a romantic setting, a work position, or as part of a feud between family or friends.
Yet rejection can also be the conception from which much greater things are born.
The future will remain forever unknown to us, but herein lies the reason to be thankful for rejection.
What we perceive as a negative at the time may, and often will, in some way lead to a lasting happiness further down the road.
Being passed over for a job can lead to other opportunities revealing themselves, and being turned down by someone you have feelings for is a sign that, however much you may have wanted it, the relationship was not meant to be.
15. The Unknown
Not only is the future a complete unknown, there are many aspects of life and the universe as a whole that we will never fully understand.
Rather than run from the mysterious, we should be grateful to it for instilling a sense of awe and wonder in our minds.
Think back to when you were a child and the sense of amazement you experienced when learning about new, exciting things.
Discovery is a part of being human and it is the unknown that allows us to dream of possibilities that might one day become a reality.
If everything were known and nothing were uncertain, life would become a dull, colorless exercise rather than the vibrant, electrifying ride it is.
You might think that a life free from pain would be sheer bliss, but in both the physical and emotional sense, pain is an essential feeling.
It is a warning sign that something is not quite right, a notice to take action now before things get worse.
Our bodies need the pain signal to alert us to cell or system damage, while our minds need pain to guide us away from situations that are detrimental to us.
If neither type of pain were felt, it would lead to a crumbling of our physical and mental wellbeing.
Pain is, therefore, very much something we should be thankful for.
17. The Unconscious Mind
It may not feel like it, but your life is largely in the hands of a silent player—a part of you that gets very little attention or appreciation.
That part of you is your unconscious mind.
There is simply no way that your conscious mind could ever handle the vast amounts of information that come streaming through your senses.
From simple things like your ability to walk, to the intricacies of your decision-making process, much of what you do minute by minute is controlled by your unconscious.
Without it, we would be overwhelmed to such an extent that we’d be rendered utterly impotent and immobile.
So it’s well worth thanking this force that sits in the background enabling you focus on the more important things.