American Thanksgiving is on our doorstep! I am not ashamed to say how much I love the ritual of food and family and friends and taking a moment to say thank you for what the year has brought.
I love the harvest imagery and the chill of the impending winter. I love the fact that really all you have to do is eat and say thank you…whatever that looks like to you.
I find that even in difficult times and at the end of really hard years, the ritual of Thanksgiving has become for me a way to slow down and truly take time to count my blessings.
I also love the opportunity it gives to reflect on the traditions and ritual of expressing gratitude and what it means for our physical, emotional and spiritual health.
I recently read this really nice article in the New York Times. The author highlights the importance of expressing gratitude as a way to feel more connected to the people, places and situations you encounter. He stresses that this isn’t about false happiness, but rather recognizing the things for which you feel grateful even during the times when you feel sad, lonely, lost or broken. It may be easier said than done for some, but he sites some interesting research on the point.
I imagine this is a bit like looking at people who see the glass-half-full versus those who tend to view it as half-empty. We all face difficult times (some of us face unimaginable difficulty and tragedy), but it is true that some people seem more capable, or at least more skillful, at recognizing the things for which they can be thankful regardless of their situation.
But what about those times when you’re not feeling grateful? Is it possible to learn to practice gratitude, to get better at saying thank you? And, if you do, what does that mean for your life? This article is a great starting point for understanding the science behind gratitude and the effects it can have on your life. But sometimes, I think, it's just good to start at the beginning and simply start saying (or showing) thanks.
I love finding new and creative ways to show gratitude and appreciation. There are tons of fun ideas out here. To get you started in your own journey, check out my favorites below. Do you use any of these? What are your favorite ways to say thanks? Then, scroll down for links to even more creative and inspiring ways to bring a little more gratitude and thanksgiving into your every day life.
My Favorite Ways to Say Thanks:
- Say thank you for the small stuff. We all have our every day responsibilities – taking out the trash, preparing dinner, loading the dishwasher, paying the bills. But just because these things are requirements doesn’t mean we can’t say thank you to the people in our lives who take care of them (or that we wouldn’t appreciate a thank you in return). Make it habit to say thank you daily to your kids, your spouse or partner, your work colleagues, your barista, you waitress…
- Keep a mental list of your friends’ favorite things. The best gifts are rarely big and expensive – they are simple, thoughtful and spot-on. Gift-giving is a classic way to express gratitude, but when we really notice others we are able to say thank you with a token of our appreciation that is more than just a check box. So, make mental list or write down things you want to remember. When it’s time to say thank you, you’ll know just the small, but perfect way to do it.
- Put it in writing. I am a huge fan of sending a card, but there’s nothing wrong with an email, a Facebook message or a text. Set aside time regularly to send thank you notes even for the smallest things – including a simple message to say, “Thank you for being you.”
- Create traditions with your friends and family. We think of traditions often during holidays, but the truth is traditions can be a part of our lives at any time of year. When we work together with our loved ones to do things that are important to each of us we send the message, through effort, pre-planning and remembering, that the people around us matter and that we’re grateful for the role they play in our lives.
- Share stories and ask questions. Showing interest in the experiences of the people in your life demonstrates that you value and appreciate their presence and that you’re willing to invest in cultivating a deeper relationship. Here’s a great list to get your started on this one!