1. Take time to think before giving thanks. Sure, we can all rattle off a few obvious things we're grateful for. But what about those smaller, yet still important things that don't immediately bubble to to surface of our consciousness? Taking time to really think about the bountiful life you have helps being grateful easier. No, you needn't have a lot of money or possessions to lead a bountiful life. As Jack Kornfield, noted author and spiritual teacher reminds us, "Gratitude is a gracious acknowledgment of all that sustains us, a bow to our blessings, great and small, an appreciation of the moments of good fortune that sustain our life every day,” This includes the animals, plants, insects (yes, even them), sky, sea, fire, water and Mother Earth. Don't forget to include these things in your gratitude.
2. Imagine yourself all alone. Whether or not you're at a Thanksgiving Day table, it can be helpful in finding authentic gratitude, to imagine yourself all alone. Without friends or family, how would your life be? Think about each of the people you are close to. How did you meet them? If they're family, what is your earliest memory of them? Think about all the events that they've been a part of. What would your life be without this person? The feelings that surface as you ask yourself these questions...that is authentic gratitude.
3. Write a gratitude letter to each person from the above exercise. Don't worry about the grammar and spelling. Just let your true, authentic thoughts flow. Let them know what they mean to you, how they've enriched your life. Be sure and mention specific events or incidents where their behavior and/or actions had a positive impact on you. These letters needn't be pages and pages long. In fact, try to keep them under 300 words. Then deliver your letters, in person if you can.
4. After Thankings dinner, take a walk, then give thanks over dessert. Even if you're not celebrating this holiday, it can be beneficial, whenever you're dining with loved ones, to take a walk after a large meal. Not only does walking aid digestion (which makes room for the yummy dessert) but it can reveal the beauty of nature if you're in the country. Live in the city? Admire the elegant and interesting architecture. Notice the many, varied faces of the people you pass. Then, when you sit back down at the table and give thanks, these things can become sources of gratitude and are ones that you might have otherwise overlooked.
Although we don't celebrate Thanksgiving in Land of Lily Pad, I do like to use this time of year to review and renew my gratitude for family, friends, and the beautiful and bountiful place where I live. No matter what circumstances we live in or how challenging our lives might be, there is always lots to be grateful for. Simply look around.
William Arthur Ward, one of America's most-quoted authors once said, "Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it."
Gift your gift of gratitude today.