For several years I’ve joined the Fox 4 Morning Show on Thanksgiving morning. We usually have a fun morning with a lot of food and everyone kind of just cutting loose in the studio, all on camera. But this year, as with all things COVID, we got together via Zoom, the reduced crew in the studio and me in my office in Lawrence. Hopefully, next year, we’ll be back to talking about what not to discuss at the Thanksgiving table. But this year, we needed something a little more profound, so I selected the topic of gratitude. That may seem like low hanging fruit. It is after all, Thanksgiving, which is supposed to be about, you know, giving thanks. But knowing what we’re grateful for and putting that into action is about a lot more than counting our blessings around a turkey dinner. Research has found that making gratitude a part of your daily life — making it something you practice and exercise — is associated with many mental and even physical health benefits. It improves your social life and even helps you reduce anxiety and sleep better. That’s because practicing gratitude is a terrific gateway into living a more intentional, mindful life.
Here’s the exercise I shared on the Morning Show, in case you need to jump start your gratitude practice ASAP for the holidays:
Ask your family to write on little slips of paper their feelings for every person in attendance, but not to identify themselves. Each person should write 1) Thank you grandma for….x; thank you mom for y and so on. Then answer 2) What I love about you, uncle bill is…. blank and finally respond to 3) My holiday wish for you, aunt Sue is…. Then stuff all the slips of paper in a jar and draw them out one at a time. It may sound schmaltzy but it will take only a few minutes and it gets you into the spirt of gratitude, which is what this season is all about — and what every day needs more of in our lives. By the way, if you are SUPER creative, you can get some those little decorative autumn leaves and write on those. It adds some color to this project.
There are actually a lot of good online resources for developing a daily practice of gratitude, so I won’t try and include that content here. I’ll just give you the links and let you check them out for yourself. A particularly good one is from positivepsychology.com which includes media for every taste. If you like worksheets, they’ve got ’em. Into podcasts, they list seven. Need ideas to help kids become more grateful, they’ve got a link for that. If you are a fan of Jeopardy, as are my daughter and I, they have two quizzes and questionnaires on gratitude.
A 2018 article from the PsychologyToday blog has a few other interesting ideas. Even Inc. Magazine had an article on this that appeared on Thanksgiving day. It’s a thought-provoking way to approach this topic.