Gratitude — the simple act of giving thanks for any number of things in your life, from the food you put on your table to having a shoulder to lean on during tough times. Whether you’re looking for inspiration around Thanksgiving or you’ve been thinking about gratitude exercises for awhile, there’s no bad time to start. In fact, recent studies show that practicing gratitude has positive lasting effects on the brain. It can lead to more self-awareness, and help relieve stress. Let’s dive into some gratitude activities you can practice on your own or with those you love, wherever this holiday season finds you.
Start a gratitude journal
Create a pocket of time during your day for personal reflection. This can be just five minutes of your time to sit and write a few things that you are grateful for in the moment. You can even write a letter to yourself or to someone else, if you’d prefer. Doing this can be a wonderful exercise in grounding yourself and remembering positive moments in your life.
Thank you “hot seat”
When was the last time you took the opportunity to say thank you to people in a community group, your job, or other significant spaces? Consider creating a gratitude or thank you “hot seat” where different members of a group sit in a designated chair or have the spotlight put on them. Others then take a moment to say something they are grateful for about that person. This could be a thank you for their consistent efforts in helping with a tough project, or a recent favor they might have done for you! You can even apply this approach to a family Thanksgiving where each family member gets their own “hot seat” moment.
If it’s not possible to celebrate the holiday season in person with those you love, consider setting up a time to share a meal, play a game, or schedule a “friendsgiving” over video. Sometimes the easiest way to show someone you’re grateful for them is to carve out intentional quality time. Bake your favorite holiday dessert, watch your favorite movie together, and consider ending your chat by letting them know one thing you’re grateful to have shared with them over the last year.
Annual gratitude tablecloth
Teach the benefits of gratitude exercises with your little ones. Simply purchase banner paper or a large piece of craft paper that covers the length of your dining table. Encourage your children and even the adults in your family to draw or write things that they are grateful for. Add onto it over time, or turn this into a fun and engaging Thanksgiving activity. Consider saving these over the years to reminisce about family gatherings and memories.
For a virtual version of this, use something like a Google doc to leave notes or add pictures. Then, share it via email with everyone in the family.
Consider making volunteering a regular part of your family’s routine. If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving virtually this year, giving back in respective local communities is a great way of bonding with people even when you’re hundreds of miles away. Collect canned foods, donate to a cause you’re all passionate about, or ask around to find out what needs you can help meet in your area. If you have a skill that you can offer virtually for non-profits, be sure to reach out to local organizations to see if they could use your expertise online! Gratitude can come in many different forms, and seeing the impact it can have on other people’s lives is powerful.
Having a gratitude jar in your home or workplace is another great way to exercise your way of saying thanks. All you need is a large mason jar or box, cut-up strips of paper or sticky notes, and a pen. Keep this gratitude jar somewhere everyone in your household or workplace can access. If you’re in a work-from-home environment, consider starting a shared spreadsheet with a tab or page for every person on your team. Encourage people to write something positive about someone that they’ve experienced. An example might be: I’m thankful for [x] person for giving me a ride to the airport when I couldn’t find a ride. Or, I’m grateful for my partner’s willingness to be flexible to walk the dogs when I work evenings. These can be as simple or elaborate as you like. The important part comes in the ritual and sharing.
Sometimes a small gift (or a big gift, depending on your mood!) can be a wonderful method for showing gratitude. Perhaps someone in your life has recently gone out of their way to help you with an assignment or project, or made you feel heard when you needed it most. A gift of appreciation can be a wonderful expression of gratitude. Consider emailing someone a virtual gift card to their favorite coffee shop or suggesting an exchange of baked goods for people in your circle.
Gratitude is a practice. It’s one that you and those close to you might enjoy incorporating intentionally in your lives. Whether you’ll take some of these ideas and integrate them into your home routine, or you’re prepping for your virtual Thanksgiving this holiday season, may the gratitude come back to you full circle and remind you of the little things that make life meaningful.
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