With Thanksgiving approaching, if you’re like me, you’re consumed with cooking, hosting family, or traveling, making it easy to overlook that this is when we’re supposed to be thankful for our blessings.
Living in such crazy times, where terrorist attacks occur with greater frequency, and where wars are off the charts and when many of us struggle financially, it’s hard to step back and practice gratitude, but it’s something we can all benefit from. How can expressing gratitude help, you may ask?
Cultivating a daily practice of gratitude will help to minimize the stress in your life and increase your personal happiness.
Once you become familiar with practicing gratitude, your compassion for others will grow, making you feel more connected to your family, community and world at large, and, in all likelihood, desirous of making a contribution towards a better world.
I know this is a lofty claim, but I can attest from personal experience that a gratitude practice has softened my heart, made me smile more and enlarged my humanity. I’m far from perfect. There are plenty of days when my complaints take center stage. The whole point of a practice is not to aim for perfection but to do what you can to add something new and beneficial to your life.
Here are some basic steps for starting a gratitude practice, adapted from the website, Tiny Buddha:
Commit to a Gratitude Journal:
Record what you feel grateful for. This can be done in the morning or evening. Several women I know, who have been keeping a gratitude journal for years, prefer end of the day entries. Gratitude can range from the mundane (“Another unseasonably warm day!”) or the more profound (A son or daughter pays you a compliment, or you read about how Muslins and Parisians are practicing good-will towards one another in the light of last week’s terrorist attacks.)
Practice Present Moment Gratitude:
When something touches you, express gratitude to yourself or to another, especially if it involves a random act of kindness.
Write a Gratitude Letter:
While you can do this anytime, it could make a meaningful holiday gift to a partner, adult child, grandchild, or a close friend. Describe how they make you grateful. (I’m considering letters to my grandchildren who are 11 and 10. Like most kids, I’m sure that they could use a little boost to their self-esteem.)
Use Gratitude to Stop Negative Thinking:
When you find yourself in a funk, retrieve your gratitude journal to recall what’s good in your life as a way to break your negative pattern. And/or force yourself to find something at that moment for which you are grateful.
This Thanksgiving when my family gathers around the table to stuff their bellies, I will try not to gloss over the familiar, “Share what you’re grateful for,” but instead encourage a deeper sharing, where we express thanks not just for the good in our lives, but what we are grateful for in one another.
Happy Thanksgiving to all! I’m grateful for all the wise women in my life!
What are you grateful for?