If November had a theme, it might be … you guessed it—gratitude! It is, after all, the month we celebrate Thanksgiving.
Regardless of our feelings about the traditional Thanksgiving story we learned in grade school and the variety of individual ways we choose to celebrate (or not celebrate), we can probably all agree that this month is a powerful time of connecting (or reconnecting) with our communities, and sharing our harvest – both from our gardens and from our lives. Holidays can be challenging for many of us. Some us us may feel alone, when family and friends are far away. Some of us may find it challenging to be around family members whose belief systems we have grown away from, who may trigger us in uncomfortably familiar ways. Still yet, we come together the best we can, in celebration of the feeling of gratitude and abundance.
The mystic poet William Blake once said, “Gratitude is heaven itself.” Modern neuroscientists agree that practicing gratitude is indeed a sure-fire way to cultivate feelings of happiness, and to actually strengthen the neural connections that make that most desirable state something that is not just a fleeting feeling, but a sustainable baseline state for our brains to rest in.
This is an invitation to practice gratitude this month, on Thanksgiving Day and every day. Just try it, as an experiment. Especially if you are prone to get a case of the doldroms this time of year, gratitude practice is a great antidote. Even if—ESPECIALLY if—you don’t think it will work, here are two practices you can try this year.
Choose a friend (or share on social media—you could even use our Facebook page!) with whom you can do this practice. Each day, find one thing for which you are grateful. It could be the simplest thing. A cup of tea. A favorite song. A chocolate bar. Spend the day identifying that thing, and at the end of the day, share your object of gratitude with your friend. You’ll probably find it difficult to choose just one thing to share. What a great problem to have, right? Do this all month. The trick of it is: it’s the search that makes the difference. Looking at the world through the lens of seeking gratitude creates happiness.
This is to be practiced at Thanksgiving dinner, or any group dinner—whether that is with friends, family, or even strangers. Go around the table one by one, and have each person state one thing they are grateful for from the past year. Go around the table three times. When each person is speaking their gratitude, sit and truly listen and recieve what they have to say. Try to avoid commentary. Let the person expressing gratitude speak, while the rest of the group listens. Save the commentary for after dinner. Notice the effect this has on your own mood and on the energy of the group.
Whatever else you do this month, take the opportunity to appreciate the good in your life, and share it with others. The ability to do this is what creates true joy and abundance!
By Leaflin Winecoff