Being Thankful

I can vividly remember one Thanksgiving when my rather large extended family went around the table before dinner was served and each person was asked to share one thing they were thankful for. Some were thoughtful and touching, others were practical. I remember this particular year because I was caught off guard. I listened to my family members all share touching and thoughtful expressions of thankfulness and I nervously waited for my turn. Despite the vivid memory, I truly can’t remember what I shared that I was thankful for, but being about 8 years old at the time, I’m pretty sure I said some standard response of “my family” or “soccer,” or I repeated what a previous family member shared.

Regardless of my 8-year-old memory, the point is that we took a moment to stop and notice what was working in our lives instead of what wasn’t working. This is the formula for gratitude. Or is it?

The tradition of taking a moment to share a reason to be grateful has been evolving into month-long events for families to recognize and celebrate. Some families have adopted an at-the-dinner-table nightly routine. Others have created Thankful Pumpkins, where they write down something they’re thankful for on a pumpkin every day through the month of November, then prominently feature the pumpkin as the centerpiece on Thanksgiving Day. And others have used Thankful Jars or Gratitude Jars, where every family member writes down one thing they are thankful for each day and puts it in a jar to be read aloud – as a family – on New Year’s Day.

What I’m seeing is that today’s world, which is so seemingly self- and world-unaware, has moments of great awareness. Moments of enlightenment. Moments when they are so truly tuned in that they can see and appreciate the up and the downs (because the downs help us appreciate the ups) in each of life’s little moments.

And I’m increasingly seeing this in younger kids. In fact, my 3-year-old’s preschool class created “Thanksgiving trees” this year. Each student was encouraged to draw something they were thankful for, thus introducing the awareness and understanding of being thankful (granted, one student featured spiders on his Thanksgiving tree, but the conversations are being had…).

So this Thanksgiving, don’t just take a moment to reflect on what you’re thankful for today. Challenge yourself to adopt this attitude of gratitude every day throughout every year. Just think of how you would change – how you think, feel and act – when you focus more on what is good and right in life instead of what isn’t. And should that be something you do every day?

Take Action
Make some time to truly tune in to your surroundings on Thanksgiving. Where are you? Who are you with? Is someone missing that you wish could be there? How did the food taste? What extra effort went into bringing you all together? What emotions and feelings does this view of the day help you experience?

Now take a deep breath. It’s easier to acknowledge what you’re thankful for than it is to say “thank you,” so close your eyes and say “thank you.” Say it out aloud or in your head. But say it to the universe. To your family and friends. To yourself.

Then ask how you will bring that attitude of gratitude to everything you do, to learn to see and appreciate the good in every moment. You and those in your life will be changed by it.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Life’s Little Gifts

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Not the Same Old Thanksgiving Post

By Jay Forte, Coach, Author, Educator

I love to read all the reminders to be grateful that come out this time of year. The holidays are really a remarkable time to help us refocus on the value of celebrating the people and events in our lives.

Because the being grateful theme is so pervasive at this time of year, I thought I would do something different: I challenge each of you to improve what you are grateful for.

Let me explain. As you pause at this time of year to notice the things to be grateful for, shift from noticing to taking action by asking yourself this one important question: “What could I do to make this better?” It is one thing to be grateful, it is another thing to make the things you are grateful for better.

In my programs, I share that I come from a large Italian family, and larger families often come with a lot of rules. Rules about homework, chores, how to treat each other, pets, neighbors, sharing… the list seems endless. Though I wasn’t always keen on all the rules, my Dad had one rule that was exceptional. He told us that as we come down the stairs each morning, we must tune in and pay attention to the things around us, then ask ourselves this question, “What could I do to make this better?”

So ask yourself this question in every aspect of your life. For example:

  • You say you are grateful for your relationships. What could you do on a daily basis to make them better, more authentic or more supportive?
  • You say you are grateful for a country with freedoms and liberties. What could you do on daily basis to make our country better?
  • You say you are grateful for the food you have. What could you do to share more of what you have to make another’s life better?
  • You say you are grateful for your health. What could you do to help others have better health and well-being?
  • You say you are grateful for your job and the life it provides. What could you do to make your workplace better, more inclusive and more supportive?

Making things better doesn’t mean they are bad and therefore need to change. It is just a new realization that with some intention, we can shift our gratitude to action.

So, as you sit around the table, look at the people at the table and be grateful for them. Then ask yourself, how can I make my relationships better? How can I be more generous with my resources? How can I be more supportive and helpful in my community, nation and world?

Think how many new things to be grateful for will emerge with this approach.


Consider reading Try This Instead

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