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While Halloween now kicks off the holidays for many, Thanksgiving is still the beginning of the traditional holiday season where we make an effort to gather with friends or family, or to take some time off to rest and relax.
Whatever you’re doing this Thanksgiving, I encourage you to take a moment and find something you are uniquely, personally grateful for. Don’t make it a trite answer… think of something that’s specific to you, maybe something no one else knows about, something that brings you joy and happiness. You can write it down, or just tuck it away somewhere in your memory banks to pull out later on one of those days when your gratitude tank is running low because of stress or anxiety or fear or annoying people or bad weather or sickness or grief or whatever trial has come your way. Coming up with just one thing to be grateful for is likely to trigger more ideas, and pretty soon you’ll find yourself feeling better, pretty soon you’ll find yourself feeling better, and probably behaving better, too.
Scientifically speaking, the act of being grateful— summed up by expert Robert Emmons (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/gratitude/definition) is “an affirmation of goodness” and recognition that “the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves”—changes our brains, which in turn, changes our perception of the world around us.
I suggest finding odd, personal, specific things to be grateful for because sometimes the generic, general, all-encompassing things we’re supposed to be (and usually are) grateful for, just don’t do the trick.
It’s going to be another unusual Thanksgiving for us this year and I was letting that make me gloomy last weekend. I was also having a rough time coming up with things to be grateful for. I finally landed on the color of the laundry detergent. It’s a really awesome shade of blue. I could be thankful for that color. Weird, right? But it worked. Being thankful for something as silly as a particular color made me grateful I have laundry detergent, and a washing machine, and clothes to wash, and so on. And then, almost magically, I felt a bit better. Circumstances hadn’t changed, but my perception had.
Thanksgiving might wind up feeling more Orwellian than Rockwellian at your house, especially when someone brings up politics or religion with crazy Uncle Ralph. Or when someone is missing from the family table. When it’s not what you imagined or wanted, it can be a challenge to find something to be thankful for, but if we try, we can always find something.
By Niki Turner | firstname.lastname@example.org