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(posted: November 20th, 2015)
What if we had Thanksgiving every day? Not the feast, but the meaning and the intent?
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.
We are all busy, and in our fast-paced, hyper-connected, 24/7 culture it is so easy to let things big and small slide by, without expressing gratitude, or thanks.
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!
Are you ready to make gratitude a habit? Even though it's simple, it's not always easy!
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.
You can read about the very special gratitude journal I kept one year for my daughter, here.
"You cannot do a kindness too soon, because you never know how soon it will be too late."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
For yourself, if you tend to forget, write things down as they happen on scratch paper, in Evernote or Google Keep, or in a smartphone app for gratitude. For others, leave notes of appreciation or gratitude for people in your life – Your family, friends and people you work with. "Nice job!" handwritten on a simple Post It note stuck to a report or a phone is guaranteed to bring a smile.
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.
"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."
~ G. K. Chesterton
This may seem obvious, but thanking someone for their help will make them feel appreciated and special. Whether they’ve held the door open for you or put in extra effort on your project, a genuine "Thank you" means a lot.
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?
"If you want to be happy practice compassion; if you want others to be happy, practice compassion."
~ Dalai Lama
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.")
Find something to be thankful about, or someone to say thank you to, every day.
"A thank you a day will do something magical. It will keep you growing every day," says Rajesh Setty in his book, "Gratitude."
How can a "thank you" help you to grow every day? For you to feel thankful you have to be surrounded by people who interact with you and impact your world. These people may challenge you, or support you, but they all can help you to become a "better" you. Be thankful for these people, and this growth, every day.
It's worth looking at this the other way around, too. How can you be the person that someone else is thankful for?
This takes some work: If it is important to you to make a difference, you have to care more than many other people do. Then, you need to be present and aware so that your actions illustrate how much you care, and finally, you need the relevant knowledge and the right intent.
As Setty says, "It is never too late to make a pact to make a positive impact."
"The world needs more demonstration than it needs instruction."
~ Wallace Wattles