10 Ways to Practice Gratitude Beyond Thanksgiving
It’s wonderful when we come together with our loved ones and share our gratitude one day of the year. Thanksgiving is a great reminder of the importance of gratitude in our lives. What if we could find simple ways to continue to practice gratitude long after the turkey leftovers are gone, and our guests have returned home?
Here are some of my favorite ways to practice gratitude beyond Thanksgiving. Start with the ONE that resonates with you the most.
After you’ve made it a new habit, you can layer on other ideas and make practicing gratitude a way of life.
10 Ways to Practice Gratitude Beyond Thanksgiving
1. Giving thanks when we eat.
A common Thanksgiving dinner tradition is sitting around the table, holding each others' hands, and sharing one thing that we're grateful for in the year that has passed. What if we continued this tradition and when we’re together with family or friends for meal, we share our thanks with each other? When my family and I sit down for a meal, we hold hands and say thank you for this food. And then we share one thing we're grateful for from that day.
Eating alone? Take a moment to think about where your food comes from and give thanks for the people along the journey that made it possible for the food that’s ended up on your plate. Have you read Thanks a Thousand by A. J. Jacobs? It’s the story of how he wanted to express gratitude for every single component in his morning cup of coffee and traveled the world to give thanks. I’m not suggesting we need to travel the world to give thanks for our meal, although visiting a local farmers market and saying thank you would be a great idea!
2. Gratitude reminders around the house.
Thanksgiving is a great time to pick up art that represents gratitude or gratitude quotes in frames for example. Do you have a holiday sign that says grateful, thankful, blessed? What if you choose to keep this reminder up all year round? Find quotes or words that mean something to you and that make you smile when you read them. In my kitchen, I have a frame with ‘Start each day with a grateful heart’. It’s a simple reminder first thing in the morning when I’m making my tea.
Another simple way is to display thank you cards you’ve received. I have several in my office and a few more in our bedroom, to remind me to give thanks no matter where I am in the house. It also reminds me of the person who sent it every time I see it.
3. Grateful while we’re driving in traffic or waiting in line.
Does your Thanksgiving travel involve driving? It can be challenging to find gratitude when we’re stuck in traffic. Here’s what I do when I’m in a situation that’s out of my control, like traffic or waiting in line. I make a mental list of things I’m grateful for. It can be things I see around me, for example, grateful that I have a car to drive, there’s fuel in the tank and it’s in good working order. What if we believed that everything is always working out in our greatest and highest good and we’ll arrive safely at our destination at exactly the right time? Haven't you noticed that often when we are delayed by traffic, we still end up at our destination with ideal timing?
For those traveling by air, you might find yourself waiting in long line ups at the airport. Waiting in line is a great opportunity to practice gratitude. Especially when we’re waiting with young children. Focus on gratitude for the smallest of things and this helps keep your attitude positive. Try smiling at the person who’s at the end of that line, for example the gate attendant or security officer. Acknowledge that you appreciate that they are working as best as they can under the given circumstances. I’ve learned that when we assume that everyone is doing their best in each moment, it’s easier to be grateful and kind.
4. Try a 30 Days of Gratitude Challenge.
It’s always the right time to start of 30 Days of Gratitude Challenge. My favorite way to do this is by sharing daily on social media. Find a photo of the person, place or thing that you’re grateful for and share your gratitude in the caption. I’ve seen friends take this idea and share their gratitude on social media for a full year! Why not be the person who shares hope and gratitude on social media, rather than spread negativity?
Now, if you're not a person who's on social media and you still want to do a 30 Days of Gratitude Challenge here are a couple other ideas: Send a text someone every day, tell them why you're grateful for them and send them your love. I call that sending love texts. You could do the same by email. If you're doing it by email, I suggest writing a longer message and being as specific as you can with your gratitude.
One more idea is to send physical cards. I love sending and receiving physical cards. As I mentioned, I put them up around my house when I receive them. Gather your supplies ahead of time, including 30 or more cards with envelopes, stamps and return address labels. Keep a list of those who you’re sending a card to, to avoid duplication. Expressing our gratitude to others has an impact far beyond when we only express our gratitude in private.
5. Writing in a Gratitude Journal
Gratitude journaling is a traditional gratitude practice. Whether you write in your journal at night or in the morning is up to you. Here are a couple of ideas to add to your practice. Be as specific as possible when sharing what you're grateful for, for that day. And then doing your best not to repeat the same thing again and again. You’ll never run out of things to be grateful for.
Do you know what a gratitude intention is? Years ago, I learned this from Bob Proctor, who was featured in The Secret movie. It’s giving thanks in the present tense for something that has yet to manifest on the physical plane.
When my family and I wanted to move across Canada from Ontario to British Columbia (BC), we set our intention January 1st, 2017 that we would live in BC by the end of the year. Every day I wrote it as a gratitude intention in my journal. I changed and adjusted as needed so that the words I wrote, I believe to be true, even though it hadn’t happened yet. I was clear on what I wanted, and we manifested it all before the end of the year. Our family moved to BC on Dec 7, 2017 – having secured a job for my husband and purchased a home in the neighborhood we chose back in Jan 2017.
6. Find Gratitude when you’re walking
It’s easy to take for granted the ability to walk until it is taken away. After I’d experienced my first miscarriage, I was blessed to be pregnant for a third time. And this time I made it to 12 weeks, before I had a 2nd miscarriage. I went to the hospital for a surgical procedure called a D&C which I’d had with the first miscarriage. Unfortunately, over the next couple of days, I developed a life-threatening bacterial infection called invasive group A strep which causes flesh-eating disease or sepsis. And I got the sepsis kind. I got very sick and ended up being intubated and put into a medically induced coma. Thankfully, after a few courses of antibiotics, I started heading back in the right direction. A week later, I woke up grateful and truly understanding what it means to be thankful for the gift of another day.
When you spend a week in a medically induced coma, you lose a lot of your muscle mass and your ability to use your muscles. It was nearly impossible to bring a cup of water to my lips. In order to leave the hospital, I had to be able to walk on my own. I was determined to get out of the hospital as it was close to Christmas, and I wanted to be home with my family. I used every ounce of positive mindset I had to force myself to be able to walk with the support of a walker and be discharged. If you’ve never lost the ability to walk, this might be something you’ve never thought of before.
These days, I often say thank you with every step I take - thank you, thank you, thank you. You can do the same. If you're walking or hiking outside in nature, try saying thank you for the beauty of nature that surrounds me.
7. Recite a Gratitude alphabet
Having trouble sleeping? Instead of counting sheep, try a gratitude alphabet. If you're having trouble falling asleep, start at the letter A and think of someone or something that you're grateful for. Pause for a moment and reflect on what you’re grateful for about that person or thing. Did you know that people who practice gratitude before falling asleep report having a better quality of sleep?
This a strategy I suggested to my 11 year-old daughter. She was having a difficult time falling asleep and having negative thoughts. She struggles with anxiety and panic attacks. Thankfully, she's doing much better these days, however sometimes falling asleep is hard for her. I recommended it to her a few nights ago and it worked! She told me the next morning, “I think I got to about letter E or G. And then I fell asleep and it worked for me. Thank you”.
8. Being Grateful in the shower
It might seem a little strange to work on our gratitude practice in the shower but it’s one of the best places to focus on gratitude. We can start with the fact that we have hot water and indoor plumbing. These are things that we take for granted that most people around the world have never experienced. The shower can be a good place to meditate on what we're grateful for. It can also be a time to express gratitude for our body. Many of us are critical of our body and how it looks or how it feels. Being in the shower is a moment of total privacy, where you can just feel your body and hold your hands to your body and be grateful for how incredible your human body is.
9. Expressing our Gratitude to others
Most of the ways we practice gratitude are personal and don’t directly involve others. Here are few of my favorite ways to express gratitude for other people. Something I learned from one of my mentors, Michael Losier (author of the Law of Attraction) is that when you’re going to meet up with someone or go into a meeting with them, use the phrase Here’s what I like about (person’s name) to focus on all the good things about that person. This works well especially when you’ve got a difficult relationship with a friend or a client.
It's been a difficult year for many who are working directly with the public, for example in retail, coffee shops and our health care workers. The next time you interact with someone on the other side of a counter or when they’re providing an in-person service, pause and see if you can catch their eye. Share a heart-felt thank-you or other words of gratitude with them. It’s likely they haven’t heard a positive thing all day. Your words of appreciation can turn their day around.
10. Having a morning Gratitude mantra
Having a morning gratitude mantra doesn't cost anything. It takes only a few moments to start your day with a mantra like mine: Thank you for this gift of another day, and the opportunity to be of service to others, and to make a difference in this world. You can choose to repeat these same words or create your own gratitude mantra. Write it on a note card and leave it on your bedside table as a reminder. This is my favorite way to continue to practice gratitude beyond Thanksgiving, and the simplest one that will impact how you show up in the world every day.
There are many beautiful ways for you to practice gratitude beyond one day a year and encourage you to pick one thing that you've learned from today. Make a quick note immediatley and start with one new habit. Over time, your gratitude habit will become second nature and it will be easier for you to add more and more layers to your practice.
You may find that your life becomes unrecognizable from one Thanksgiving to the next if you choose to practice gratitude daily.
Enjoy reading & listening to things about gratitude? Download a free gratitude meditation here: bit.ly/GratitudeLoveLetter and you'll receive my weekly Gratitude Love Letter as an added gift.