Giving Thanks; A Practice in Gratitude

Thanksgiving. The time of year where millions gather together with their loved ones and think about all they're thankful for. It's a day of relaxation and memories to be made and shared. Family comes from all around to spend time with those most important to them. If only it all went as smoothly as it sounds. A part of us knows all the commotion and planning can cause a person a lot of stress and it can be easy to loose sight of the thankful part of Thanksgiving. 

The hostess is praying the turkey isn't too dry and the mashed potatoes aren't too lumpy; Mom is hoping all the kids can find their shoes to get to Grandma's on time, and the college student is hoping no one asks how school is going. It can be difficult to stay positive and thankful throughout this stressful day. One way to keep thankful on Thanksgiving is to adjust your mindset. Simply changing your perspective can change your entire mood. Let's try to see things in a new light:

  • Frantic about getting the house cleaned in time for family to arrive? Remember to look at the bigger picture and don't sweat the small stuff. Will stressing about the windows being squeaky clean really matter in the long run or even in an hour? Those fingerprints are the mark of little ones bringing play and laughter into your home.
  • Stuck in holiday traffic? Think about those people stuck there with you; They are trying to get to loved ones too. Be thankful you all have a place to celebrate this holiday season surrounded by those who are thankful for you!

Almost any situation can be interpreted differently if you put your mind to it. But being thankful only on Thanksgiving is like loving someone only on their birthday, you miss out on so much happiness! Studies show incorporating a mindset of gratitude each day can improve your heart health, sleep quality, make you more optimistic. In fact a study by Robert A. Emmons at the University of California at Davis showed people who show gratitude and regularly practice being thankful are actually healthier overall.

Practicing an attitude of gratitude doesn't have to be hard or time consuming. Numerous articles and blogs have been written on easy ways to show gratitude each day. Here are just a few of our favorites:

Think Three

Each morning while you brush your teeth think of three things you are grateful for. It can be something small like your new gadget to organize your day or something large like a friend who is always there for you. As an added benefit, taking the time to be thankful will ensure you take the time to brush your teeth thoroughly, reinforcing good dental hygiene; Just one more thing to be thankful for!

Jot it down

Take the time each night to reflect on a few things you were grateful for that day, recording it in a journal or notebook. Not only will you end each day with a smile, but it will give you an easy way to look at all you're thankful for on a day where gratitude is not your attitude. You just may find over time that you turn more easily to an optimistic outlook.

A daily thanks

Make it a daily habit to say thank you. It can be as easy as saying "thanks" as someone holds the door for you or as heartfelt as a hand-written thank you card. The key is to acknowledge the feeling of gratitude you have for that person or gesture of kindness. Before you know it you'll find yourself being thankful throughout each day.

Reflecting on all you are thankful for each day has the ability to transform not only how you feel but your outlook on life.Gratitude is not about what you have or how much of it you hold. It's about how you feel about what you have. Try a practice of gratitude for a week and watch as you turn more quickly to optimism.  As an added bonus studies have shown people who are grateful about things in their own lives are more likely to focus on other people and not dwell on themselves (Robert Emmons).


"When I am more grateful. I feel more connected with myself and with my environment. That's the opposite of what stress does."
Paul J. Mills, PhD.


Resources and Additional Readings: