Happy Thanksgiving month!
As I was growing up, this holiday was one of my favorites. Mainly because of the menu and the “kids table”. There was plenty to eat and my siblings and cousins and I were not monitored as usual. It was awesome.
We rolled home a few hours later, stuffed full, feeling our health completely restored from all the laughter and conversation and mutual admiration and taking the time to mention things we were happy about. We were grateful!
But it was over so quickly.
In just a half a day, we had given thanks, celebrated, then moved on -- probably to Christmas.
Weren’t we more thankful than just a half-day’s worth?
As I wrote in this space previously, I have looked for ways to be deliberate about being thankful. Research shows that practicing different forms of gratitude helps alleviate mental health issues, and that this improvement is greater when practiced over time. In other words, gratitude makes us feel better.
So in the spirit of those 10 or so hours on the fourth Thursday of November, I have some suggestions if you want to up your Thanksgiving game.
These are some tough suggestions. But you are tough. I know you can do this. You don’t even have to tell anyone -- these are for your own mental gymnastics.
Consider being thankful for something difficult. Maybe it’s something you don’t want and it’s bringing you down. Is there an upside you can pinpoint? Looking for even the smallest ray of hope can help dissipate the oppressiveness of a hard thing and maybe even propel you to a better perspective.
Give thanks for something that is not worked out yet. Maybe there’s no way to tell how it will go. Instead of allowing your imagination to spiral downward to a worst-case scenario, make room for something unexpected and even joyful! Giving thanks helps diffuse negativity. In the end, we aren’t that good at predicting the future, according to research scientists. Maybe you have figured that out on your own, haha.
These are easier. Say “thank you” out loud to someone who has helped you. This sounds super obvious, but consider it an offering that benefits both yourself and others.
Who can you thank? Thank your neighbor, your kid, your mom, God, the mail delivery person, the grocery bagger. (This is a bigger deal than you think. A few years ago I started specifically thanking the baggers at Kroger and judging by their reaction it isn’t something they get a lot)
Sometimes it helps to be more mindful of expressing gratitude if you switch up the vocabulary -- you both will notice it more. Try saying these:
Thank you so much.
I am grateful!
That was so kind of you!
I am much obliged. (old fashioned, but fun to say)
That means so much to me.
Here’s another suggestion in the out-loud category: say “I am grateful (or thankful) for:” and then speak it. Once, my friend, Della Phelps of Ontario, was being teased about her age, and she responded, “I am grateful for the years.” What are you thankful for? Tell someone!
There’s something about committing thoughts to actual text that makes it more real. One option is a gratitude journal. Counting your blessings even just once a week can boost happiness, studies show.
And how about the thank you note? This can be anything from a letter you don’t even deliver to a short hand-written thank you note on a scrap of paper. My sister-in-law has written these notes to servers at restaurants for years, and I’ve seen her get chased down by people overcome with their own gratitude at being noticed and acknowledged. Gratitude creates more gratitude.
Yesterday my sister was traveling by airplane, and the plane was struck by lightning and made an emergency landing. As she contacted family and we realized the severity of the issue, my thankfulness skyrocketed. I wrote to my cousin, “I feel like I have no choice but to be thankful. What if I had lost my sister today? I MUST BE GRATEFUL NOW for what and who I have.”
Thank you for reading. It truly means so much to me. If you like, share some of your gratitude here!