On Thursday, 167 miles northeast of La Crosse, my family will be gathered together for the traditional Thanksgiving feast, as we have done for many years. Unfortunately, this will be my third consecutive Thanksgiving that I will not be at the table. Instead, I will be putting in a twelve-hour shift at work, probably feasting on a frozen dinner, or the complimentary meal in the cafeteria. While I won’t be celebrating Thanksgiving in the traditional way, that does not mean I won’t be celebrating.
Gratitude is not only the greatest way to celebrate the holiday season, but it has been my greatest ‘mood booster’ over the course of 2014.
Four Ways I Practice Expressing Gratitude
(#1) Gratitude Journaling
I do not write in my journal on a daily basis because I don’t want it to feel like a chore. When I do write in my journal, something I have put into practice this year is writing down at least one thing I am thankful for from that day. Most of the time; however, I write three or four things. Sometimes even more.
There has been research on the many benefits of expressing gratitude and it has certainly made a change in my overall mood. I have become more mindful everyday and observant of little things I used to overlook.
(#2) Handwritten Notes
I try to write handwritten thank-you notes every time I receive a gift, or when someone does something nice for me. If you have ever received a handwritten note thanking you for something, then you know how powerful they are. Did you know that sending notes like this doesn’t just benefit the person on the receiving end, but it benefits you, too? People who express gratitude are often happier than those who do not. Gratitude has a positive impact on the brain. It involves neurotransmitters and stuff, but I’ve been out of college for three years (which I’m grateful for, by the way), so I won’t dive into that now. Feel free to look it up for yourself, though.
I think my 2014 New Year’s Resolution will be to write more thank-you notes and letters to people.
(#3) Find the Positives
There are many setbacks, challenges, and struggles in this life. Boy, have I been through a few doozies, too. Sometimes, these bumps in the road have hidden tiny blessings for me to find. The more I’ve sought the blessings, the less I’ve dwelled on the struggles.
(#4) Helping Others
How is helping other people a form of expressing gratitude? Think of something you have. Then, picture your life without it. I have been in the armpit of depression on 125 degree days without deodorant, I’ve sailed shit crick with my dinner spoon as my only paddle, and I have lost sleep over basic necessities in life I didn’t have. Today, my needs are met. I’m working a job I love that allows me enough free time to do even more things I love. I have family and friends who are always there when I need them. Life is good, but I know there are people out there who have been where I have been, and many who have it much worse than I could ever imagine. Helping others is my way of sharing my countless blessings.
I challenge you to focus on gratitude, and not just Thursday when you’re enjoying your Thanksgiving meal. I challenge you to write something you are thankful for everyday for two weeks. Not type. Write. With a pen or a pencil. Report back, if you’d like. I’d love to hear about it. We can compare notes.