There is a warm rush of thanksgiving and gratitude that comes over us in the month of November. The holiday set aside for giving thanks is the source this time of year. We also start seeing the daily Facebook posts identifying all the things for which our friends are grateful – usually serious commentary, but sometimes silly and fun. I am writing this blog after Thanksgiving to remind all of us that gratitude is a daily thing, not a November thing. I know you know that, but it is so easy to forget as we go about the day-to-day of the rest of our year.
I wrote an entire chapter called “Gratitude” in my latest book, The E Factor: Engage, Energize, Enrich – Three Steps to Vibrant Health. It is a practice I believe in wholeheartedly as life enriching, both for the thanks you give and the abundance you continue to receive. I share a lot of ideas in the book on how to make gratitude a regular practice in your life. I want to share a few more with you here so that thanks giving is more than a holiday.
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 with who you are sharing 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. Midwesterners in general are pretty good about saying thank you, if not always please. 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 to which we don’t pay attention that often make our day just a little bit better. 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.