Thanksgiving is just two days away! It’s time to brace yourself for the holiday traffic, prepare the turkey, set the table for 12, and start writing those wish lists. But it is also time to share what you’ve been most grateful for this last year… and perhaps indulge in some pumpkin pie.
Sharing our gratitude doesn’t have to be–and shouldn’t be–an event that is confined to forced conversation over turkey once a year. Showing gratitude is something that we should continuously practice day in and day out. Gratitude is a hobby that travels far beyond the remnants of the turkey coma after your Thanksgiving feast.
So rather than share ten hobbies that might be fun to try this Thanksgiving, I’ve decided to share ten ways to “cultivate the habit of being grateful” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)–not just on Thanksgiving but in all the days that follow.
1. Go outside and breathe the fresh air. Not everyone is lucky enough to have clean lungs or the ability to walk outside on two feet. Show your thanks for both by taking a step outside and really taking the time to breathe—inhale, exhale.
2. Say thanks for the little things—If your loved one made the bed this morning, text him thank you in the afternoon with a little smiley face. If your friend or roommate did your dishes—especially if it happens regularly: say thanks. It’s the little things that sometimes mean the most.
3. Write thank you notes. Write them to everyone: to good friends, mentors, acquaintances, people you’ve lost touch with.. Be sure to let people know that even if they were in your life only briefly, their impact has mattered.
4. Pay it forward. Drop a couple coins in a parking meter that is about to expire; pay the toll for the car behind you on the highway; cover the coffee for the next person on line next to you in café. By doing this we can start something pretty amazing: A chain of gratitude—or something as amazing as a kindness boomerang:
5. Go out of your way for people for the heck of it. Similar to paying it forward: Offer to clean out someone’s closet, mow their lawn, or rake their leaves without an alternative motive.
6. Start a gratitude journal: Write down 5-10 things you are grateful for or 5-10 things that make you happy each day—or each week. Maybe 10 isn’t enough. Try 20. Once you start writing down what your grateful for/what makes you happy—you find out there’s a lot out there that goes beyond the surface. In 2010, my good friend Hannah challenged me to come up with 30 things that I was grateful for/that made me happy. I ended up making an entire day out of it in Rome:
7. Give thanks to the negative aspects of life—not just the positive. Remember, it’s easy to say thank you when all things are going right. But it’s just as important to say thank you when things aren’t going right, or when you’re stumbling, or when life puts up hurdles on the race track. It is in the moments of struggle that we build strength, and in the moments of adversity that we build character. We cannot be grateful for the happy moments without being grateful for the difficult moments as well. Make sure in that gratitude journal you share the negative things you are grateful for too.
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
8. Write it in Stone. Okay I don’t mean deface property. But perhaps take a piece of sidewalk chalk and put just how grateful you are right there for everyone to see. Last winter, my goal was to spread happiness by chalking the word happiness into all five boroughs on one of the coldest days of the year. Why not take the time to chalk thank you as well? My good friend, travel mate, and editor Kim did just that in Raleigh, NC:
9. Try something new. I clearly can’t preach this enough (ha). But remember (as with #1), not everyone has the chance each and every day to walk outside and breathe the air, to make use of the legs they’ve been given, the arms, the hands—the heart. Some people are born without legs and ski mountains, some people are given one arm and discover how to climb Everest. And some of us are given two legs, two feet, two arms, and two hands—and we often forget to believe in ourselves with our one and only heart. Show your gratitude for what you’ve been given, by using it. I don’t mean flaunt it—just use it.
10. Give yourself a day. Give yourself a day to just be. Don’t schedule a single thing. It’s your day. You’ve earned it. I mean this. As important as it is to show gratitude for the air you breathe, the people you spend time with, the roof over your head, and the health you’ve been blessed with—it’s equally as important that you show gratitude towards yourself—for the hard work you’ve put toward the happy, healthy, filled life you are living. It’s easy to get caught up in what’s next–To forget to embrace the moment. But embrace the moment—be grateful for the moment. Be grateful for yourself.