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(posted: November 24th, 2014)
While Thanksgiving Day in the United States brings family and friends together to share a wonderful feast, I'd like to remind you to think beyond the turkey and pumpkin pie to the other big reason for the celebration - Gratitude.
Regular readers know that I believe in being thankful and aware of our blessings all throughout the year, but Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to bring gratitude into focus, to spend some time thinking about what matters most in our lives, and maybe even a good time to commit to a more structured gratitude practice over the coming year.
Did you know? There are real benefits to practicing gratitude, like sleeping better, reducing stress, being more resilient, and even having a stronger immune system and lower blood pressure!
"At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us." ~Albert Schweitzer
First of all, you will have to commit to making it a habit. Even though it's simple, it's not always easy!
Keep a gratitude journal. Choose a nice notebook, or use your smartphone or tablet with an app, like the Gratitude Journal for iPhone or My Gratitude Journal for Android, and set aside a little time each day to record the things, people, events, thoughts and traits that you are grateful for. Some people prefer to start their day with thoughts of gratitude, and others like to spend a little time before going to bed counting their blessings. There isn't any right way - Choose a time that works for you.
Make notes. If you think you will forget, write things down as they happen on scratch paper, in Evernote or Google Keep, or in a smartphone app for gratitude.
Read about the very special gratitude journal I kept one year for my daughter, here.
Stuff it. If journaling starts to feel repetitive or stale, try a Gratitude Bank. Any time you come across a moment that makes you feel thankful, write it down and put it in a designated jar. At the end of a specific time (quarterly, monthly, each Thanksgiving Day or New Year's Eve) empty the jar and review what you've deposited.
Work together. Another option is to keep your gratitude journal with a partner, a child, or even a group. This gives you the benefits of recording your gratitude daily and spending quality time with people who are important to you.
Write thank you notes. Real, handwritten, snail-mailed notes. There doesn't even have to be a reason, and your recipient will be surprised and pleased. When was the last time you sent or received one? How did it feel?
Say something nice to every person you encounter today. This goes beyond the usual courtesies of meeting people. If you know them, ask a personal question and listen genuinely to their answer. If you don't know them, offer a compliment. If you have a bit more time, ask how their day is going and really listen for their answer, or notice what is going on around them and offer a little support (to the barista at the coffee shop: "Wow, it's busy in here. You are handling it beautifully." Or to that barista on a holiday, "I have to tell you, I really appreciate that you are here today.")
Think outside the box. You can be grateful for little things as well as big ones. You can find things to be grateful for even in seemingly underwhelming events. For example, I don't love rainy days, and if I let them, they get me down. But when I notice that the rain makes the air smell fantastic, and that it brings out a wonderful assortment of colorful umbrellas, my mood shifts and I am grateful to experience those delightful aspects of a rainy day.
We'd love to know how you practice gratitude, and how it affects your life! Please share your thoughts on gratitude in the comments, below.