How many of you know that 17 countries celebrate their own version of Thanksgiving? It is not just an American holiday; thankfulness is a universal trait celebrated globally. We can work on being thankful daily and don’t need to wait for a holiday to count our blessings. How do you make this year the one where we lead less busy lives where we get distracted from the most important things and instead have thankfulness as part of our daily consciousness?
This coming week as many of us step away from work in the U.S. to celebrate Thanksgiving, it is always a great reminder of how lucky and thankful I am. What is universal for all 17 counties that celebrate Thanksgiving is that each spends time with loved ones and has celebrations focused on the appreciation for our lives. Such a simple and wonderful concept.
One of my favorite school projects my son brought home over the years was his thankful turkey. The feathers on the turkey list all the things he is most grateful for. We bring the thankful turkey out every year to remind us that big and small things can bring us joy and how fortunate we are to have the lives we do, despite the ups and downs the world throws us.
Research and clinical studies show a direct link between gratitude and the direct impact it has on our personal and professional lives:
- 70% of employees would feel better about themselves if their boss were more grateful, and 81% would work harder.
- Regular gratitude journaling has been shown to result in a 5% to 15% increase in optimism and a 25% increase in sleep quality.
- Gratitude is related to 23 percent lower levels of stress hormones.
- People who are grateful have access to a wider social network, more friends, and better relationships on average (Amin, 2014), likely due to the effect of how trustworthy, social, and appreciative we seem to others.
A grateful mindset helps people live their best lives, build deeper relationships, be more present in the moment, and appreciate everything they have. Gratitude also helps us realize that we are connected to something more significant in our lives, including our friends, family, natural beauty, health, a higher power, and beyond. Research proves that being thankful helps us emotionally and physically. Findings from the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell survey found that – happiness was higher for participants who consumed experiential purchases versus material ones in every category, regardless of the cost of the item.
Easy Ways I’ve Put Gratitude at the Heart of My Life
- Roses and Thorns
During dinner, my family goes around the table and asks each family member their highlight and lowlight for the day. We share details about the good and the bad experiences and what can be learned from them. Instead of just sharing gratitude at a meal like Thanksgiving, it is nice to talk about life’s day-to-day ups and downs. If my son had a great day or my husband is dealing with a challenging work project, we can all relate and celebrate successes or support one another in tough times.
One gratitude practice I’ve recently started each evening at 9 pm is to write down three good things from my day. The Three Good Things app sends you a daily reminder and asks you about the three good things that have happened that day and how they made you feel. There is also an inspirational, thought-provoking, or funny quote each day. Somedays, the three gratitudes are easy, and I can write them in a minute. Other times, I need to think more deeply. The app also allows you to scroll back and look at past experiences, which are timely reminders for which you have much to be grateful for the past weeks and months.
- Recognize the Little Things
Thank yous don’t need to be a grand gesture. They can be little things like saying thanks to the person who holds the door open for you, talking with a neighbor when you are out for a walk, or sending a loved one flowers. One of my favorite things is sending a friend a birthday card. It does not take a great deal of effort to do this small gesture and remind special people they are on your mind. These simple acts benefit you and the person on the other side. Try to do one little thing daily to improve your life and someone else’s. I promise they will remember it and will pay it forward.
- Start a Journal
Find just a few minutes in the morning to center yourself and start your day positively. Write down a handful of things you are grateful for – reflect on family, friends, work, taking the dog for a walk, dinner with the family, and beyond. The healthcare provider Kaiser recently published a blog listing all the reasons journaling is good for you, including achieving goals, gaining self-confidence, reducing stress and anxiety, and finding inspiration. All great reasons to set aside time and focus on putting pen to paper about your thoughts, wishes, and struggles.
- Pray, Meditate, Find Quiet Time
Each of these is a way to quiet the busy world around you and focus on the present moment. Forget to-do lists and what is for dinner, and center yourself. Find five or 10 minutes to shut out the noise of life. Turn off your electronics and sit with yourself. I enjoy walking or jogging, and living in the Bay Area, there are many great spots to get outdoors year found and think about life or clear your head. I need to remind myself that praying or meditating doesn’t just need to happen in the morning or at night; it can happen throughout the day. During the pandemic, I know many companies offered guided meditation for employees, which we extremely popular. If something is stressful or not going well, find a quiet space and take a deep breath to clear your head and focus on the bigger picture.
- Focus on Experiences
With the crazy holiday shopping season coming up, we get bombarded with deals for every conceivable product. This or that product will make our lives easier, better, and happier. For me, simplifying life and having fewer material possessions around the house is freeing. I much rather spend time and money on a trip with the family or new experiences instead of items that just pile up and don’t have much meaning. This holiday season, I will choose the gift of time and travel to make the longest-lasting memories instead of having another package delivered to my front porch.
In 2022, I am thankful for family, friends, health, travel, and having a little more focused time for myself, including starting this blog. I appreciate each of you who has read and engaged with this blog. As we start to wrap up 2022 and see 2023 around the corner, I am committing to bring a mindset of gratitude into my daily life. Being thankful allows me to feel more positive emotions, cherish moments in my life more profoundly, handle adversity with more resilience, build stronger bonds with those around me, and live healthier lives. Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!