Thanksgiving is a holiday celebrated throughout many countries each year. In the United States, families gather on the fourth Thursday of November to count their blessings around a buffet of food, while enjoying American football. Our Thanksgiving origins date back to the English pilgrims of the 1600s, whom came to our country seeking religious freedoms. Similarly, Canada celebrates their Thanksgiving the second Monday of October, honoring God for a plentiful feast.
While both of these countries celebrate this holiday, thanksgiving is much bigger than food and football. In fact, it’s something that should be celebrated all year. It’s a time to reflect on the positive things that have happened within the past year. There will always be negative things as well, but treat these as learning experiences and move on from them. During this time and year — and for the year ahead — feel blessed that you are living life with a grateful heart. Here’s the best method I know how to do this.
Live in the moment.
Life is too short to worry about the past. It’s senseless to worry about circumstances that can’t to be changed in the present time. It’s important to live in the present, witnessing how wonderful your life is at the moment. Try to find the good within each day, such as your child’s laughter or a stranger holding the door open for you. Be grateful for what you have now, instead of what you had five years ago or will have five years from today. When you make comparisons, it’s a form of mental torture that tells your brain “it’s not good enough.” Don’t do this.
Keep a gratitude journal.
A gratitude journal is a fantastic way to encourage positive thinking. Each day, write three to five things for which you find gratitude. In the beginning, these may be such things as “I’m thankful for my family.” There’s nothing wrong with that. If you feel the need, explain why you are thankful for each entry. When you reread your journal, these explanations will help you reflect on your thoughts during that specific time. For instance, this year I’m thankful my holiday season doesn’t involve a hospital or nursing home, where I spent it in 2012 due to my accident.
The key with gratitude journaling is awareness and reflection. Each entry may help us realize how fortunate we are in times that we encounter suffering and loss. It also helps us reflect on what we may learn from each situation. For instance, a journaler may write in their gratitude journal: “I am grateful to have had time with (family member) before they died.” What may we learn from their final conversation? More importantly, what may we take away from their lives and their legacy?
Remember the bad
Negative events can serve as a reminder that we shouldn’t take anything for granted. For instance, consider the English pilgrims that came to the New World on the Mayflower. They celebrated only after hundreds perished due to a harsh winter. Also, when times are good, it’s easy to take prosperity for granted. People often think they are untouchable, and that they can handle anything that comes their way. In contrast, when times are at their worst, people believe they are powerless to control their situation.
In essence, crisis has the power to help us feel grateful for what we do have. For instance, a family member may feel powerless they lose a spouse or child to cancer. While this situation is bad, consider the good in the situation. The family member may feel grateful there is a cure, or they may find gratitude for the ill family member still actively trying to pursue their interests.
Give back to the community & say thank you.
Paying it forward is a satisfying way to add more gratitude to your life. There are hundreds of ways to volunteer within your community. If you find gratitude for your food, then volunteers at a local food pantry. If you find gratitude in your children, volunteer your time by becoming a leader for the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. There are non-profits that relate to an interest or an occupation, such as organizing teams to walk five 5ks. These walks raise money for a disease’s cure or help someone within the community. All of these activities will help you appreciate what you have in your own life that much more.
Furthermore, it’s important to show gratitude towards another person if they do something to help you. One way to express gratitude is face-to-face. Body language and tone and voice both express your sincerity of appreciation. They may return the gesture with a friendly gesture, hug or a handshake, which is a sign they have appreciated your gratitude. In return, they may do something nice for you.
Another way to say thank you is by doing a service for someone. For instance, customers usually thank whomever is taking care of them at the counter. Connecting with the community is also a way of helping to provide a service. Those who serve in a food pantry are receive warm, endearing gratitude from those they serve.
Think outside the box, however, and get creative. There are non-profits and groups of people (such as the military) that deserve to hear a thank you throughout the year. You may consider donating your time or organizing a fundraiser to help them afford them books, supplies or equipment for their organization. For instance, libraries organize fundraisers to buy new books.