Yesterday, at our Thanksgiving dinner table, my nine-year-old sister brought out a little turkey-shaped cup and hand-cut, paper leaves, instructing us to go around and say something we’re thankful for. I, of course, kept it simple and stuck to my love of Monja and coffee, though in reality there are hundreds of things I am grateful for each and every day. It’s a blessing and a curse that we in America (and other countries, too) reserve one day a year to spread our thanks — a blessing because it gives us a day to be grateful, and a curse because it means we sometimes forget about the other 364. Today, I’m sharing eight ways to be grateful beyond turkey day and well into 2014.
1. One Line a Day book
This neat book chronicles your life over five years…with just one sentence a day. It’s advertised as a memory book, but how amazing would it be if you used it to keep track of all the daily morsels that you’re grateful for? I’ve done a similar activity, using a journal, and reading back through my daily reflections is more smile-inducing than warm pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.
2. Be mindful of your thank-yous
How many times a day do you say thank you to the person brewing your coffee or ringing up your Black Friday deals? Several, I bet. I’d like to hope you already thank these people, but how mindful are you while doing it? Is it full of warmth and true thankfulness, or is it more of a robotic habit? This time, try thanking people directly, with a warm smile, and for what they’ve done to help you. The last time I worked in retail was almost five years ago, but I still (and probably always will) remember the customers who thanked me like they meant it.
3. Create a gratitude board
Some of you are more visual people, so setting up a little wall or shrine in your house — depicting everything your grateful for — is an excellent way to remind yourself what is important in your life, every single day. You could also make a wake-up wall, so that every morning, you’re immediately confronted with the best things in your life.
4. Set up a gratitude visit
Think of someone from the past who has done something you’re thankful for. Write them a letter, sharing all the ways they have positively impacted your life. Call ’em up and set up a little meeting time. Then, share your letter out loud, with your friend. Research has shown that this simple activity will dramatically increase your happiness (and will probably make your friend feel like a million bucks!). How many people do you still need to thank? Give it a shot!
5. Read books on gratitude
Whenever I read a book, my entire world starts to shift into the dreamland of the story. The books we read have a huge power over how we end up living and reacting to our lives. Need some good places to start? Check out The Magic (by the same author as The Secret), Choosing Gratitude, or A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life.
6. Create gratitude rituals
Creating habits is something that humans do without even thinking. From general things like waking up and brushing your teeth, to more unconscious habitual decisions, like which side of the bed you always sleep on. But how many of your habits involve intentional gratitude? From now on, try working a gratitude ritual into your daily routine, such as having everyone say something they’re grateful for at the dinner table or in bed before falling asleep.
7. Make a gratitude jar
At the beginning of this year, I made a wish jar. On separate pieces of paper, I wrote at least 15-20 dreams I had for 2013 and then inserted them all into a small glass jar, which remained closed until recently, when I decided to bust it open. I’d forgotten most of the things I’d written, but found that I had succeeded in accomplishing or even surpassing almost all of them. That idea is a bit different, but the point is that taking time to ponder what is important to us and then later reflecting on those ponderings, can have a big impact on our lives. Try creating a gratitude jar, where you write down daily, weekly, or even monthly things that you’re grateful for. At the end of the year, take some time to look back through your jar and realize what an amazing life you probably live.
8. Reshape the negatives in your life
I’m sure we all have plenty of positives to be grateful for, but what do you think would happen if we also took time to think about the splendid ways our lives have been affected by even the negative turns our paths have taken? Didn’t get that job offer? Got dumped? Certainly these experiences can hurt us, but what good has also come of them? You got a new, better job? You got to take some time to fall back in love with yourself? Be grateful for the good, even in the depths of the bad.
Let’s keep the conversation going — tell me what YOU’RE grateful for in the comments. How will you practice gratitude today?
Speaking of gratitude, I’m always thankful for the wonderful people who sponsor this here blog. Today, I’m sharing one of those gorgeous sponsors!
Amanda of Living in Another Language
Amanda is the fun-lovin’ expat, currently living in South Korea, who runs the often funny travel blog, Living in Another Language. When I say “funny,” I mean it. Please refer to this post about everything she’s had to use charades for to overcome the language barrier. YOU try acting out “power transformer.” This post about all the random situations she’s dealt with will also make you giggle. A drunk guy who stole her shoes? Well, she told you it was random! If you’re looking for something a little different, then Amanda also wrote this touching and beautiful post about Finding Home. It’s a must-read, y’all. Since Amanda is an expat, you can bet she does her fair share of traveling. Check out her multitude of gorgeous photos and travel posts here! I have a feeling you’ll feel right at home on Amanda’s blog…now go say hi! 🙂