Tomorrow is the BIG day. We will all sit around a table with people that we care about and “celebrate Thanksgiving”…whatever that means to you! But it is important to recognize that our gratitude is not merely an act of discipline. Giving thanks has emotional and psychological benefits that are truly astounding and that are in some ways the foundation of a well-lived life. Basically, gratitude makes you happier and can change your attitude about life. It’s almost like an emotional reset button for you life that helps you transform envy, anger, resentment, depression and STRESS into peace, joy, and even hope. When you stop to count your blessings, you are hijacking your emotional system and driving yourself out of a funk into a place of less stress. To use this Thanksgiving as a catalyst for positive and healthy change in your life, try these three steps:
1. Focus your gratitude on people, not on things. Many people sit around the Thanksgiving table and talk about being thankful for the food they are eating, the car that they drive, or the house that they live in. But giving thanks works its emotional magic mostly because it connects us with others. That’s why when you give thanks it should be more heartfelt and personal. Forget the quick mostly anonymous Facebook status updates thanking all your 776 “Friends” for how much they mean to you. Don’t bother to compose the group text telling everyone in your contact list you are thinking about them this thanksgiving. Instead, get real! Be transparent. Write someone in your family a note thanking them for making a difference in your life this year. Or you can make it a point to go around the table and share one reason you appreciate each person in attendance at your thanksgiving feast. Whatever you do, be sure to concentrate on what life would be like without the relationships you have and on how grateful you are for the blessing of the people you love.
2. Write down what you are grateful for. A solid body of psychological research suggests that recording your gratitude helps extend your positive mood indefinitely. I have two ideas that will you write about what you are thankful for this Thanksgiving in a pretty painless manner. First, sometime during Thanksgiving weekend write and deliver in person a letter of gratitude to someone who has been especially kind to you, but who you never thanked. The research shows that this letter will give you an immediate boost in your mood and lower your stress levels significantly. Second, keep a journal between now and the end of the year in which you write down three things that you are grateful for everyday. I will bet you that if you follow-through with these two writing exercises, you will have one of the most peaceful Holliday seasons ever!
3. Take a moment tomorrow and think of your worst moments, your sorrows, your hurts, your loses, your sadness, your brokenness, you embarrassments, and your pain. Then…remember that you are here in this place, able to remember them. You got through the worst day of your life and you lived to tell about it. Then, look to God and thank him that through it all He has never left you or forsaken you. That He has been present, and faithful, and powerful, and TRUE. And that we will continue to be all of these things always and forever.