I love Thanksgiving! As a child, it was my favorite holiday, as our family came together and the house was filled with the smell of my mother’s delicious cooking. Our cousins would arrive and we would play until dinner was ready. As we grew, we participated more in the preparation and learned our way around a kitchen under my mother’s skillful guidance. Implicit in the preparation, serving, and cleaning was a sense of gratitude for the food we ate, the people who added so much to our lives, and the freedom we enjoyed to share the holiday with those we loved.
In the last few decades, much has been written about gratitude and a small industry has developed to support us in being grateful. There are gratitude journals, gratitude card decks, and gratitude practices. One of my favorite restaurants is called Cafe Gratitude, where each dish is named and ordered as an affirmation. You don’t tell the server, “I’ll have the grain salad.” Instead, you state, “I am gracious.”
It’s a simple, yet profound, concept.
As we affirm a trait that we aspire to, we search our mind for experiences and beliefs that demonstrate that quality. We reinforce the belief that, “I am gracious” by recalling times that we were, in fact, gracious. Owning that we are gracious then leads to more gracious behavior. Similarly, when we intentionally set out to feel gratitude, our mind jumps to the people, conditions, and activities in our lives that we are grateful for. Once we set that intention, we become more aware of feeling grateful throughout the day.
Try it – stop what you’re doing and take a few moments to think about what you are grateful for. Consider the small things (I found the shoes I thought I had lost), the more important things (our new roof doesn’t leak) as well as the truly big things (our kids are healthy). Allow your mind to bring in images of what you are grateful for in every realm of your life – family, friends, home, work, nature, activities. As you take a few deep breaths, allow the feeling of gratitude to fill your body, including your heart. How does your life feel now? Notice how many times during the rest of the day that you become aware of a sense of gratitude.
So as we approach this wonderful holiday, let’s spend a few minutes each day being thankful. Maybe you want to call one friend a day to tell them how much you appreciate them being in your life. Perhaps you keep all the children at your Thanksgiving day dinner busy before dinner by giving them a pile of magazines and asking them to make a collage of all the things they are thankful for. Or you might ask each guest to declare what they are grateful for. As we spend time actively being grateful, we will bring and become more aware of the many things we have to be grateful for. And that will make this Thanksgiving a happier time for us all.