This isn’t another article on how to awaken gratitude during the holidays. I don’t want to write about how hectic your days are, or how to appreciate your more difficult family members. Instead, we are going to talk about how you can feel grateful every single day of your life because the benefits of gratitude are not seasonal, they are endless. But first, we have to talk about real gratitude.
In recent years, “gratitude” has become a cultural prescription of sorts. A word that the mindfulness community often throws around as a spiritual cure-all. While this is useful, it is a deeper practice than most of us realize. From a kabbalistic perspective, gratitude begins with first having an awareness and then an appreciation of just how powerful you are. Having gratitude for yourself and being whole as you are, in turn, expands your gratitude for other people and other things. Beliefs influence behavior. What we believe about ourselves is who we become. When we do not have an appreciation for who we are and who we can become, we limit how much influence we have over our lives and those in it.
It’s safe to say that we often limit our gratitude lists to physical or material things – our home, our partner, our job. While these are definitely things to be grateful for they aren’t the entire picture. Being truly grateful means taking our gratitude to the next level, one of overwhelming gratitude for simply being alive; for the opportunity to experience the world, and hopefully share of ourselves in a way that brings joy to others. True gratitude means embracing and connecting to the power we all have because we each are extraordinary and can do extraordinary things.
This is furthered echoed by the kabbalists, who teach that those extraordinary things that we are capable of doing each day are supported by the energy that day offers. Depending on what energy is available to us, we can reveal our gifts in particular ways but appreciation is required every day, all year round. Spiritually, gratitude clears the path for blessings to enter our lives and into the lives of others, which is why we should all want to strive to live in a state of constant appreciation.
Constant appreciation, you might be thinking, sounds a little far-fetched. It’s not easy, but it is possible. Every day, in and of itself, is a gift and a miracle. To not be in awe of that fact is a day of missed opportunity. I challenge everyone to begin each day, for the rest of your life, with a thought of true gratitude. I can think of no simpler nor more profound wisdom for having a happier life.
If your day is going badly, appreciation is the surest way to turn it around, and you can restart your day at any moment. Aunt Maude called your gravy lumpy and your sister criticized your new haircut? You can take a moment to feel those feelings, then take a deep breath, refocus on all the wonderful gifts in your life, and where you really place importance and restart your day. I often restart my day, frequently more than once.
As we prepare to gather with family and friends, we can also prepare new ways to build gratitude into our lives. What better time to start a daily gratitude practice, either new or improved, than on Thanksgiving? I’ve put together a few of my favorite ideas, specifically for Thanksgiving, and would love to share them with you:
Let people help you. The turkey should have come out of the oven a few minutes ago, the salad isn’t made, you’ve spilled gravy down your dress, and you swear you can smell something burning… It isn’t always easy to ask for assistance even when you could really use a hand – or ten! Take the opportunity this holiday to ask for help even if the thought stresses you out more than under-seasoned stuffing. When we let go and ask for help, we give someone the opportunity to take something off of our plate (Thanksgiving pun intended) and we create an opportunity to show gratitude for the people who help us. Whether or not you believe that you truly do have it under control, ask for help anyway, even if the task is small. Then enjoy the gratitude exchange.
Gratitude around the table. One tradition I have always loved that we practice every year in my house is sharing what we’re grateful for after we’ve all sat down. Each person says one thing – or maybe a few things – they’re grateful for this year. Hearing what my family members have appreciated throughout the year is always heartwarming. This is a practice that can even be implemented at the dinner table throughout the year. It is simple and sweet, and surprisingly profound.
Really give your thanks. Throughout the day on Thanksgiving make it a point to tell each person one thing you’re grateful for about them. Specificity is the name of this game so try to reach above general compliments of “you’re so great” or “thanks for being you.” Those are valuable too but getting specific with our gratitude not only elevates us but it is sure to elevate the person on the receiving end. Tell your son that you appreciate how he perseveres even after setbacks. Share small things, like how you appreciate that your partner always save the last bite of food for you. This practice brings awareness of just how much each person brings to your life.
Let’s take the opportunity this Thanksgiving to elevate our gratitude, have overwhelming appreciation for simply being alive, for being granted another day with our loved ones, and the endless potential of each day.