Get your game on with Gratitude this week – no pun intended!
It's the most grateful time of the year...or is it?
Yes, this is the time of year in the U.S. where people actually focus on and celebrate gratitude. But what does that really mean?
If you are like most Americans, you will be knee deep in your to-do list when it comes to preparing for the big Thanksgiving day. And not just when it comes to the turkey, but also when it comes to the relationships and the human dynamics. The food really is the easy part.
And, quite frankly, Thanksgiving and the holiday season in general can be fraught with those challenging human dynamics. Politics and Religion often make their way to the table, and this can get messy. What's the deal? We can't talk about them and yet they underscore so much? There's gotta be a way to nourish healthy connections of mutual love and respect around the table, regardless of differences.
The holidays can be horribly lonely, too. Somehow, they accentuate loss, hurt, abandonment, homesickness – you name it. Being sensitive to those who may be experiencing those emotions, especially offering an empathetic presence to another, is so vital during this season.
Really, YOU are the main person YOU can change. So that's where the focus needs to be.
A simple approach to cultivating Gratitude – here, now and always
Here’s a simple, global exercise you can do to consider not only what – but to whom – you’re grateful.
Do this before you get too far into your week, and it will help smooth out many of the challenges accompanying this season of thanks. Do it daily and, well – you will most certainly reap the benefits.
1 | Start right where you are. Close your eyes, be still and breathe. Pay attention to your body and every small detail around you. What sounds do you hear? Smells? As you breathe, consider the process, how the air is moving through your body. Look at your hand and examine it; consider all it can do. Speak your thanks in the stillness.
2 | Open your eyes and look around you now. If you’re in a public place, speak thanks over each person in your path and vision. You may or may not know them, but they are walking (or sitting!) miracles, each and every one unique. Offer thanks for that.
3 | Go and look out the window. Or, if you’re already outside, find yourself a nice place to take your larger environment in. Focus on details; what do you see? For everything you see, speak words of gratitude. One object at a time. You may see beyond objects. For example, a mother caring for her baby. You may see love in that. Express your appreciation both for that taking place as well as you having the opportunity to witness it.
4 | Look at something that reminds you of the larger world – i.e., what’s not in your immediate vision right now, but you know exists. If might be a map, a globe, a magazine, an object of art, or even a ball (reminding you of our world). Your phone might work here, too. Just don’t turn it on and let it distract you. Once you have that object in mind, let it take your mind and heart to other places and people – and speak your thanks for them. Make this as long or short as you’d like.
Make sure you express thanks to someone
As a Christ follower, my thanks will go to God, whom I believe is the maker of all good gifts (even if they don’t specifically appear “good” to me). And, I would encourage you – if you’re so inclined – to give your thanks to God.
But if that is not your belief, make sure your thanks are going to someone. Gratitude is most complete when it is expressed to somebody. At minimum, after you’ve completed this exercise, make sure to share it with someone else, so they can benefit.
A few last points
You do not have to be an American to offer thanks (duh!). You do not need to live in American to celebrate Thanksgiving, whether with the capital “T” or lower-case (“t”).
Giving thanks is an act of reverence, yes. It's a universal call we all experience in our hearts; most of us want to be people of gratitude.
But giving thanks is also an intentional act of recognizing life does not begin and end with you. You are not the center of everything. So many outside forces and influences have helped make you who you are today. In this moment.
And, because you are alive, breathing and able to read – and think about – this message, you, indeed, have much for which to be thankful. Today. Right now.
What does giving thanks mean to you? If you are not an American, do you have a similar celebration in your culture? Share below!