Thanksgiving is an emotional time. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then sometimes discover once a year is way too often! Well, that is not the case for our family, quite the contrary we often have to share our gratitude remotely from different cities and miss the time together. When our kids were young we often spent our “prior” turkey indulgence being grateful for all the little things that we had…our health, our family, our home, our bed…you get the idea. Things were simple and it was a nice break from business and work. We were truly thankful for what we had.
We live in an age of distraction. Today, the great contradiction is that on Thursday the very same people who are purportedly thankful for everything that they have… on Friday are up before the sun to drive to the closest mall to treat themselves to the biggest (most certainly busiest) shopping day of the year!
The very same folks who on Thursday we so grateful for everything , now on Friday just a few belches later, need everything and are willing to go without sleep and fight to get it. Help me understand? On Thursday I was so thankful for everything, on Friday there is so much I was secretly complaining about in my spirit that I have to have; and I have to have it now while it is on sale! If only the stores had opened for a while on Thursday (oh, they will), I sure hope they stay open late today.
It gets more fascinating. On Monday the “powers that be” will calculate the retail sales for Friday and give us a diagnosis of whether “America is sick” or whether “America is well” based upon how much we spent. Think about it. If we stay home and are truly, truly thankful and don’t spend a lot in the stores…well, there is a huge problem. The economy has slowed, something is terribly wrong. If we spend a lot of money on stuff we don’t need with money we don’t have, the diagnosis is a robust economy and it is growing, things are looking up…. America is happy!
Of course, if we don’t spend enough, then the “powers that be”, those in a helpful position, will say what can we do to help them? Clearly, they will say “let’s lower interest rates so they can buy the stuff the wish they had …that stuff that they complained about in their heart on Thanksgiving Day that they didn’t go out and buy on Friday.” But, if we spend alot, well “maybe we’ll raise interest rates; actually charge them a little more for the things that they are buying because evidently they don’t care how much they spend on this stuff.”
So, the heartbeat of America will be judged based upon how much we spent, because of course if you spent a lot, you must be happy. Please, take my pulse. Why? You have got to be dead to think this way. Happiness does not equal spending or money. It certainly does not the equivalent of foolishness. Money certainly allows us to handle our problems more stylishly, but the problems…well, they normally are still there. How about a change in attitude using gratitude; how about a habit that will give us the presence of focus; it will change our focus from what we don’t have to what we have, and from that foundation we can craft understandings that help create the new level of living.
So, let’s get off the hamster wheel. (I simply hate rats!) After all, what is Thanksgiving without peace and gratitude? Isn’t that what the holiday is all about?
It is, yet many of us forget that fact. Too often, we don’t remember to be grateful for what we have or receive on Thanksgiving or on any other day. We become so involved in the negative dramas of our lives that we see only the stress-filled job, the uncaring relationship, the stack of bills we can’t pay, the doctor’s prognosis, the misbehaved children, or perhaps the lack of time. If we take another look at our lives, we can always find something for which to be grateful – the sun in the sky, a friend, the weekend, a warm place to sleep, the five dollars in our pocket, the dog who licks our hand in passing. It really doesn’t matter how much we have or how little. We still can be grateful for what we do have.
Thanksgiving offers a wonderful opportunity to remember the things for which we are grateful and to practice having what some have called “an attitude of gratitude.” Some say a prayer of gratitude represents the strongest prayer of all, and I would agree. I was taught to include gratitude in my prayers and thoughts every day – gratitude for what I have as well as for what I will receive. And what better time to start such a practice or to deepen an existing one than on a holiday created solely for giving thanks.
To begin with, try this just for Thanksgiving. First, before the meal even begins, go around the table and give each person a chance to offer gratitude for at least one thing. Begin simply by saying, “Something I’m grateful for is….” and fill in the blank. Let people share as many specific things for which they are grateful as they can think of. They can continue after their first sharing by saying, “And something else I’m grateful for is…” If someone’s turn has passed and they suddenly think of something else they want to add, let them do so between other people’s turns or at the end. This practice will set the whole tone of your meal. And don’t let anyone slide! Everyone must share at least one thing for which they feel grateful.
The second step involves prayer. Joining hands and offering a blessing on the food and the company at the table, along with thanksgiving of some sort, always sheds a warm, spiritual light on any meal. And it puts God into the picture, reminds us that the Divine might have something to do with our good fortune.
Third, ask people to bring to the table their favorite quotes or stories about being grateful or about Thanksgiving itself. During the meal, take turns sharing these aloud. It’s nice to hear the words of others or to share touching memories about a holiday. It gives depth to the holiday and a positive overall feeling to the celebration. In addition, such stories remind us of other things for which we can be grateful.
Fourth, before everyone gets up from the table – maybe over coffee and pie, focus some attention on the things you expect to receive over the next year. Vocalizing our intentions to manifest things in the future provides a wonderful vehicle for actually having them manifest in our lives. And the best way to allow these wonderful gifts into our experiences lies in affirming that they already are coming to us. In fact, it’s a most powerful exercise to offer gratitude for them as if you were experiencing them right in the moment, right at the Thanksgiving table. For example, you might say, “I am so grateful for the new job,” “I am so grateful for the wonderful health I am now experiencing,” or “I am so enjoying my sleek, trim, body which weighs just 150 pounds.” The more specific you get about these goals and desires, the better. Not only will it make you feel better, because it will affirm that what you need or want is coming your way, but they have a way of actually attracting these things into your life.
With just a little effort, you’ll find you can fill your Thanksgiving experience with a heaping portion of gratitude.
Now, that is just an excellent beginning! It’s a question of Habit? The quality of our life is largely determined by the quality of the questions we ask. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers. Nothing wrong with dreams, plans, and desires. But start your day, not just Thanksgiving day, with gratitude. Call it your happy hour; your shower power; your hour of power.
Wake up and take a hour for yourself first thing in the morning. During the hour you can do things like pray, walk and take in the freshness of the morning, listen to the sounds of the birds, feel the air, etc. The goal is to be conscious that you are alive, to stay present in the moment and to really BE ALIVE, to be human. Ask some great questions: What are the ten things I am most grateful or thankful for? How have I been blessed?
During that time you can say things to yourself out loud, or in your head. You say things to yourself that you are thankful for; “I’m grateful for the sun coming out each day.” “I’m grateful to have such a fantastic mom/dad/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend, for being ___, for ___, for laughing at my silly jokes, for challenging me when I need to be challenged, etc.” You begin to consciously recollect things, people, and situations in your life. The goal of this is that you become more conscious on a day-to-day level and your gratitude becomes more about the most simplest things; a smile that someone gave to you as they passed by, someone letting you in when the traffic was tight, for being strong enough to say, “no” when you knew you were overextended, for having an undo key on your keyboard, etc. The gratitude begins to build and becomes a part of you.
When you pray, start your prayers with thank you. You may also have a gratitude journal in which you can record the things that you are thankful for. When you have developed it as a habit, the power of gratitude will work in your life. You will begin to see that:
The Habit of Gratitude Helps You Overcome Self-Pity.
Where you may have had a tendency in the past to reel in your misfortune, having a habit of gratitude keeps your attention focused on the worthy and the beautiful.You will find that you no longer feel the need to complain all the time. The power of gratitude has taken that away. In its place, you may find optimism and a positive outlook. You may even rediscover your sense of humor and that proverbial spring in your step. You may stop taking yourself too seriously.
The Habit of Gratitude Helps You Keep Things in Perspective.
Being thankful for your life and the things in it is a habit that can help you keep your head.
While other people choose to be stressed over work, you instead are thankful for your job. While other people complain about the imperfections of their spouses or children, you find yourself being thankful for the love that your spouse and children bring into your life.
The Habit of Gratitude Makes You More Aware of the Source of the Things You are Grateful For.
Even if you are not overly religious, being grateful inevitably makes you realize that the good things in your life come from a source and that source deserves to be acknowledged.
Although gratitude is ultimately a gift that you give to yourself, it enhances your spiritual awareness and your relationship with the ultimate gift-giver.
The Habit of Gratitude Helps You Appreciate the Things that Other People Do For You.
You will find that you see fewer faults in others and you will be less critical of them.
Improving your relationships with the people you care about is a natural effect when you harness the habit of gratitude.
Gratitude is key to a living a life you’ve always hoped and dreamed for. Being thankful and appreciative of the all the things you have in life is extremely important aspect of attracting more happiness, success and abundance towards you.
As you develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, you realize that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
Looking at what you have and being grateful for it shifts your energy. When you are grateful fear disappears and plenty appears. Remember, people form habits, and habits form futures. Use this holiday season to develop a habit of gratitude and thankfulness.
Ah, that was an excellent meal! I feel a very unusual sensation – if it’s not indigestion, I think it must be gratitude.
Successful people develop habits of doing things that failures don’t like to do.
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