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Thanksgiving is a time to reflect and remember what we are thankful for. It is a day where families gathers around the dinner table to recite the many things we feel grateful for as a way of cherishing life and the gifts it gives us every day that are often overlooked. We not only leave the dinner table on Thanksgiving with our bellies full, we leave with a fuller spirit of joy and gratitude. But what would happen if we repeated the ritual and felt the spirit of Thanksgiving every day?
It is well documented that people that consistently experience and practice gratefulness are 25% happier! That is a huge increase of happiness! It’s the same as someone telling us that we could bring our salaries from 60, 000 a year to 75, 000 dollars a year, without great difficulty or interruption! We would all jump at that chance, right?! So, considering that happiness is one of the only universal life goals that we want for our children and for ourselves, we need to get excited about how to make ourselves and those around us happier by being thankful! So, don’t just celebrate thanksgiving once a year, celebrate it every day and lead a happier life!
Make it a Habit!
Research shows that those who practiced thankfulness for just three weeks, which is how long it takes to build a habit, had: stronger immune systems; took care of themselves better; slept longer and were more refreshed; had more positive emotions; felt more alive and energetic; were more outgoing, compassionate and felt less lonely.
Things that will help makes Thanksgiving a Habit
The Gratitude List:
Write down five things first thing in the morning that you are grateful for.
Wear a gratitude bracelet or charm.
Pick up a rubber bracelet or any piece of jewelry that might work for you. Wear this bracelet every day and use it as a symbol that reminds you to be grateful of the things in your day. It can also remind you to: NOT criticize, complain or gossip because the more you do these things the less time you have for feeling and noticing those things you are grateful.
The gratitude drive
Make your commute every morning purposeful by making a list in your head out loud of the things you are grateful like this sunny day, your health or the hug your partner gave you before work. Make each commuting day a private thanksgiving. It’s also a good time to reflect on your morning gratitude list.
If you have trouble thinking of what you are grateful, play the “take away” game.
Pretend the things you have now that you might take for granted: your health, the love in your life, the roof over your head; and mentally take away (one at a time) each of those things. Imagine what life would look like then. Then remember that you HAVE these things NOW, and you will start to remember all the things you are grateful for.
Don’t Procrastinate Feeling Thankful
How many times have you said, WHEN I lose weight THEN I will be happy. WHEN he says sorry, THEN I will forgive him and feel better. WHEN I get that car, THEN I will feel fulfilled! This type of thinking is one of the best ways to ruin the practice of being thankful each and every day! There are always things to be thankful for that we have right now. The best way to have more of those things that make us feel grateful is to be equipped at noticing the things that we have or are going well for us now. This will put us into a position where we can create more positive, good things. Sitting in negativity or procrastinating feeling thankful is something we do NOT have to wait to do. Do it now!
Remember this quote: Do not ruin the things you have NOW, by desiring the things you HAVE NOT!
So, on your path to losing 10 pounds, celebrate the health you have today, that car that will get you to the gym or your two legs that will take you around the block for your walk. Celebrate how you’re able to use your current body to dance or to hug those you love, even WITH the 10 pounds! The best way to lose the ten pounds and stay motivated and happy along the way is to be grateful for what you have right now!
I always say that a compliment that you could offer someone else is a wasted gift if not shared! When we notice things we like or appreciate in someone else it works to make us feel happier and more grateful to have them around, pay forward that feeling of gratitude. The person receiving the compliment will feel grateful that you shared and it will make them feel good. So, start to notice all of the compliments that you have towards others that you keep in your head (she looks nice today, that was a really good presentation, I learned a lot from you today, you made my day easier, you are good at making me feel cared for) and instead of just thinking the compliments, SAY the compliments!!! Don’t just think it would be nice to touch base with someone or that you have been thinking about them, send them a quick text to share that you are thinking about them instead! Sharing your compliments is the best way to start a chain reaction of thankfulness!
Learn to say THANK YOU better!
When we get specific about what we are thankful for we get more adept at noticing all of the good that surrounds us on a daily basis. So, don’t just say thank you to your server at a restaurant. Instead say, “thank you for being so quick with our meals,” or “ thank you for always having a bright smile when you serve us.” Instead of just thank you to your spouse, say “thanks for picking up the kids for me, because it allowed me to wrap some things up at work, which will allow me to really relax now.”
Also, it is great to write a “gratitude letter” to someone who made a difference in your life. Either send them the letter or read it to them in person. I sent a letter to my high school English teacher after my first year at university. I wanted to thank him for making my life easier by really teaching me how to write a great essay. He was a drama teacher too and had a way about him that made me excited about writing and learning how an essay should work. Because of him, my life in first year university was so much easier than some of my friends who would struggle each time an essay was due. I met up with this teacher years later. He said he keeps the letter in his sock drawer and any time he feels down or has a frustrating day of teaching, the letter serves to remind him to be thankful for teaching and to be thankful for the positive impact he has had on students.
Breathe, relax and let go!
There is a reason why Buddhist monks incorporate letting go, meditation and breathe work into their daily practice, which is why they are some of the happiest and most grateful people!
Things such as hurried, unintentionally breathing (and not living in the moment), resentment towards others, anger, gossip, complaints or making comparisons to others are very toxic in the face of gratitude. Such things ruin the feelings of thankfulness and do not leave much room for us to have a Thanksgiving every day.
As a result, it is important to find ways to: lower our anger; steady our breath and reduce our resentments if we are to be in a position where we can welcome gratitude into our daily life.
So, take big deep breaths every day! Pay attention to how you are breathing. Do you take shallow, quicker breaths? Most of us do. Sit or lie on your back and take BIG breaths and focus only on your breathing. This is a good way to calm our systems, release our angers and stay in the moment.
Take a yoga class! This incorporates breath with movement and is a good reminder of how to let go and stay present; being present is key to noticing that for which we are grateful. Forgive! One of the best ways to lower our resentments and anger is to forgive! Forgiving others is recognition that they are human and make mistakes. Forgive others so that you don’t have to carry around the hurt and anger anymore. Forgive as a way of being grateful for what they taught you or what that really difficult experience did for you. Even if it was there only to make you stronger, there is always something to be grateful about in each and every experience even if you have to work really hard to find it. However, forgiveness is the first step at finding what others’ mistakes may have taught us.