Thoughts of Thanksgiving usually connote food and well, more food. A time to get together with family and friends and share a variety of dishes. It’s a day off and the precursor to the holiday shopping season. Planning for Thanksgiving is often accompanied by great stress, especially if you are the one hosting the dinner. There is the home to clean, groceries to be purchased, food to be prepared, a table and silverware to be set, drinks to be served, seating arrangements to decide, leftovers to be distributed, and cleaning up.
Grace or a prayer is traditionally said before the meal. On some occasions, we go around the table and say what we are thankful for. That does not take more than a few minutes per person. Then the hosts and guests dig in. A good time is had by all and most people complain they ate too much.
If we look at the title of this day, it is the day of giving thanks. It’s a time to pause and reflect on what we have to be grateful for in our lives. Our health, our homes, our possessions, our loved ones, and our jobs. There is also our values, the lessons we have learned, the teachers in our lives, the air that we breathe, the organizations to which we belong, and so on.
People usually find it easier to accentuate the negative rather than the positive. We say what we don’t like about something that what we do like. We focus on what is lacking rather than acknowledging what is there. We strive for what we don’t have instead of being content with what already exists. That is the nature of the human condition.
Breaking that pattern can take time. A simple way to start is with a gratitude journal. Keep it by your bedside. Each morning when you arise, write down five things which you are grateful for. This can include the ability to walk unassisted, the carpet that supports your feet, having had a good night’s sleep, the sun that is shining through the windows, and the alarm clock that is set to your favorite radio station. Each night before you go to sleep, write down five more items that you are grateful for. It can be having had enough food to eat during the day, connecting with a friend, the car that brought you to work and back safely, wearing your favorite pajamas, or the new book which you just purchased. This list can go way beyond five if we choose to.
Getting into this practice daily helps us cultivate an attitude of gratitude. We can begin to see the glass as half full rather than half empty. Then the little gestures in life become more memorable, such as when someone pays you a compliment or when another driver lets us get in front of them. We remember to list these events in the gratitude journal. Our heart eventually becomes fuller and we want less for ourselves and ideally can be more giving to other. That is because we have much for which to be thankful.