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An Attitude of Gratitude- Not Just for Thanksgiving

November 15, 2012

This year has raced by and it is hard to believe the holiday season starts in just a week. Every year I am surprised how early Christmas decorations are in the stores and this year retailers are opening earlier and earlier to squeeze an extra couple of hours of shopping. I will feel less stuffed from Thanksgiving Dinner and more bloated from the pressure to fit so many activities into a short couple of weeks- shopping, charity, decorations,  meal planning, wrapping presents, and timing between my grandparents, my re-married parents’ families, and in-laws.

As I run through the list of cliché “reasons for the season,” it is hard to find practical ways to count my blessings, with holiday cheer, while roasting chestnuts on an open fire. So, here is my list of five ways to help brush off the jingle-bell chaos and actually enjoy this time of year.

1.  Remove “have to” from your vocabulary

We say “have to” far too often. Anything that follows those two words feels like a chore or something we are being forced to do.  When you treat “have to” like a swear word, it makes you look at daily activities with a more grateful perspective.

I have to visit family members.
I get to spend time with family members.

I have to sit in traffic.
I am thankful for the quiet time and am blessed to have a vehicle.

I have to run errands.
I enjoy being able to provide the essentials, and a little bit more, for my family.

If you have a hard time remembering this one, try adopting a Blessing Jar in your family. You can hold each other accountable, when the “have to” offenders “get to” contribute to the family vacation fund. Just seeing money collecting in the jar can be a visual reminder of your blessings.

2.  Take time to appreciate nature

Nothing is more humbling than spending time enjoying the vast beauty of Mother Nature. It doesn’t have to be a camping trip or lengthy hike- try taking the long way home past a park, enjoying a meal outdoors, or eating seasonal fruits or vegetables. By adding a little nature treat to your day, your focus will shift towards the little things we tend to overlook.

3.  Cheers! Let your family know you appreciate the time you spend together.

In many families, Thanksgiving is the time everyone is stuffed in the same house for a few hours of glutinous torture. We have the crazy uncle that talks too much, a cousin that never seems to get their life together, a sibling that brags about their kids, and all sorts of personality quirks that result in lots of complaining. In all the commotion, take time to let your family know that you enjoy this short time together.

In our house, we do this regularly by toasting. That simple clink of glasses feels like a celebration, even if it just a regular Tuesday dinner. When we aren’t sitting around a table, we cheers our Starbucks cups, ice cream cones, and even fast food hamburgers.  It’s a fun, easy way to pause and celebrate good company.

4.  Focus on the Verbs

The typical Thanksgiving tradition where each person around the table takes turns saying something they are grateful for feels like a predictable, programmed list. In addition, it tends to be “stuff” – I am thankful for a “roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food on my table.”  These are definitely necessities we should all be thankful to own, but don’t forget about being blessed with family and great experiences.

Instead, start the conversation with “When I am 90 years old, what will I be most thankful for in my life?”  When I am 90, I won’t be thankful that I maintained a spotless house, kept up with the latest fashions or hosted over the top Thanksgiving dinners. I will be thankful for all the fun adventures and accomplishments with family, friends, and even strangers.
Shed all those nouns, and fill your thankful list with meaningful verbs.

 5. Start your day with a grateful heart.

Before you go to bed each night, right down 3 things you are thankful for and read the list when you first awake. Let this be your first thought when you wake up. Starting your day with a grateful heart will make easy work of that to-do list and any other items you set out to accomplish each day.

These simple habits can be applied all year long and will make each day feel more like a blessing. If nothing else, this can be the start of your New Year’s Resolutions.

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