Last week, we celebrated World Kindness Day. I think the timing of World Kindness Day one week before Thanksgiving this year is perfect, because the two go hand in hand. A huge part of being kind is feeling and expressing gratitude. And I feel that these being kind and being grateful can change the world.
During the week of Thanksgiving, it is easy to get overwhelmed with the preparations and family visiting or traveling. It’s also so easy to get caught up in Black Friday sales and planning for Christmas. Thanksgiving can be a wonderful time to pause and spend time recognizing the many things that we have to be grateful for.
A small tradition that many families have is to take turns around the dinner table saying the things that they are thankful for. Hearing the gratitude of others can give you many other things to consider in your own gratitude.
Practice Gratitude All Year
Beyond Thanksgiving day, you can keep gratitude in your life through the entire year. I wrote an entire chapter called “Gratitude” in my book, The E Factor: Engage, Energize, Enrich – Three Steps to Vibrant Health. In it, I share many practices that you can incorporate into your daily life to keep gratitude as a focal point.
Say grace. Many faiths have a ritualistic prayer that is said before dinner. Maybe you grew up “saying grace,” as it is called. Perhaps you still do it on your own or with your children. Traditionally, it is a prayer to thank God for the food and blessings you have in front of you. Whether you thank God, you bless your food, say a traditional prayer, go around the table and say one thing you are thankful for that day, or simply take a moment of silence to be present with the nourishment you are about to consume and the people who share it, pausing before your meal to be grateful will open your heart. It is a simple, consistent practice and a great way to expose your children to the concept of gratitude.
Say thank you. I think, however, far too often we take little things for granted. Someone may open a door for you when your arms are full or let you change lanes in front of them during rush hour. Perhaps a friend or family member called you out of the blue just to say hello. Maybe you spoke with the call center for your credit card company about a strange charge and they were able to handle it. Possibly a store clerk went the extra mile to call several other locations to help you find an item. Maybe you were just checking out at the grocery store like you do every week and it seemed like no big deal. It is the little things that often make our day just a little bit better, and we often don’t pay attention to them. Even if someone does something unsolicited to be helpful, or they are doing their job, pause to notice. Say thank you. Experience has shown us that life is not always pleasant or easy. Say thank you, be grateful when it is. The bonus is the recognition you are giving to others for the little bit of joy, peace, kindness or ease they have given to you.
Share your feelings. Personally, I still like to get handwritten notes. I’ve shared stories with you before about the birthday cards I’ve kept over the years (and I’m not one to keep things). I try to make an effort to regularly tell or show my friends and family how much I love them. I have mentors, colleagues and teachers that I value greatly as well. I do little things to say thanks to my staff and clients. I am so profoundly grateful for the people in my life, so it is important to me that they know how much they mean to me and how blessed the world is to have them. Whether it is in a card, via a phone call, in person, in a text or email, or on a sticky note, tell people in your life how you feel…often.
Be grateful that… I encourage you to have a gratitude journal. I talk a lot about this in the “Gratitude” chapter of The E Factor. It is an incredible way to see your blessings as they show up day in and day out. Recently, while talking to my dear friend, Dr. Paul Jernigan, he suggested approaching gratitude as “I am grateful that…” instead of “I am grateful for…” The change of a single word shifts the intent of the phrase from being grateful for a thing to acknowledging the circumstance or situation, the broader meaning. I’m not saying you can’t be grateful for things or people specifically, but try it as ‘that.’ For example, “I am grateful that I have a home,” feels different than, “I am grateful for my house.” When I made this word switch, I noticed a deeper, more personal feeling of gratitude along with an awareness of the broader circumstances of my life for which I should be grateful.
I am blessed. You are blessed. Even on our toughest, most difficult days, there are many reasons to be grateful. Gratitude is a beautiful wellness practice that brings you into the present moment, makes you appreciate the good, and is the doorway to abundance. Make a conscious effort to enrich your daily life with gratitude, in November and throughout the year.