Sharing around the table has come full circle, and now it’s your turn. Of course, you are thankful for your family, your home, even the family dog, but didn’t you say that all last year? This is the Thanksgiving moment about which I am most nervous, not discovering the turkey is dry or the gravy is lumpy.
November, that minx of months, has rolled around once again, and Thanksgiving Day fast approaches. Messages about being thankful swirl around us as thickly as an early morning fog, bringing with them a flurry of suggestions. In spite of what has become a pea soup for the soul, how can one truly be a thankful person?
Many people take this time of year as an opportunity to serve at a food pantry or soup kitchen, participate in a clothing or gift drive, donate to a good cause or some other charitable act. Most gather together with family and friends, sharing a meal and even mentioning some things for which they are grateful. These traditions are all wonderful ways to express thankfulness and are worth keeping; however, true thankfulness grows from our everyday interactions.
In fact, for many of us, Thanksgiving Day is a blip on the calendar that flies by far too quickly. While it is meant to be a celebration of our many blessings, it has little to do with whether or not we have a grateful approach to life. If we set aside only Thanksgiving Day as a time for thankful reflection and expression, we may find we lack a sufficient well of gratitude from which to draw.
Everything takes up emotional space: joy, anger, fear, happiness, resentment, love. Processing toxic emotions can open up new space to fill with thankfulness. A few mindful additions to your everyday habits can grow your gratitude all year long, leaving you brimming to overflowing and eager to share each Thanksgiving!
1. Write a one-line to note each member of your family, sharing one thing about them for which you are grateful each Sunday evening. This will not only send you to bed feeling thankful for your family, but also your family will start their week feeling loved and appreciated.
2. Get involved in a local charity or cause that touches you personally and inspires you. This may lift your spirits and give you authentic, comparative gratitude, unlike staged Facebooks photos. Once or twice a year is admirable, but it is simply not enough to impact your outlook long-term.
3. Set aside quiet time for thankful reflection. It will refresh your outlook and refocus you, especially after difficult days.
4. Turn aggravation on its head by shifting perspective. For example, in this current hyper-political climate, inflammatory statements about nearly every political view, candidate and affiliation abound. Rather than being drawn into a mudslinging frenzy, consider being thankful for the freedom to voice various opinions.
5. Take time out to notice your environment. There are so many things we take for granted, especially during the holiday rush: clean water, hot water, dishes in the sink because we have food to eat, laundry because we have clothes to wear, the physical ability to get out of bed, a place to live, toothpaste, a doctor and pharmacies that actually have medicine, even warm beds in which to sleep. This is not to say that there are not issues and challenges which should be addressed, simply that the good often greatly outweighs the bad if we are looking to find it.
6. Gratitude multiplies when shared, so mention things you are grateful for and mention them often. Tell your coworker you are thankful that she made the coffee this morning. Let your son know you are grateful for his kindness to his sister, or simply thank someone for their smile.
7. Get your family involved. Create a Gratitude Space using a whiteboard, chalkboard or poster paper. Family thankful notes “in the moment” are sure to make you smile!
While I will always look forward to my dad’s savory sausage stuffing, sweet potatoes with marshmallows and brown sugar, juicy slices of turkey and tangy cranberry sauce followed by a slice of my mom’s delicious pumpkin pie, I think what I am most looking forward to this year is my turn to share the many wonderful blessings I have found in the every day.