By Joe Casey
Like many families, we have a tradition of sharing what we’re grateful for at our Thanksgiving table. For us, it took a while to gain
traction. At first, we went around the table and each person shared what they were most thankful for this year. This was not
enthusiastically embraced by the gaggle of nieces and nephews, not to mention some of the curmudgeons at the grown-ups table.
It led to some memorable gems. My personal favorites from the early years include:
“I’m grateful I only have to endure this torture once a year.”
“I’m thankful that this meal will be over in time to watch the Cowboys game”
“I’m grateful I can ask to be excused. Can I be excused?”
One year, my wife decided to change it up. She switched to placing a notecard on everyone’s plate. We write what we’re thankful
for and toss it in a basket. Everyone then picks one and reads it out loud. Not theirs – one written by another family member.
Each year, this has generated more thoughtful and grateful contributions. Even the snarky and the curmudgeonly have begun to
come around. My favorites are when specific family members are thanked for something they did to help others. Some are big and
some are small. You learn that what was a small thing to someone to do turns out to be very big for another person sometimes.
Research shows that gratitude provides multiple benefits for people’s physical health, mental health and overall well-being. It’s a
powerful positive emotion that can be cultivated. There are indications that it can create a virtuous cycle. Specifically, studies have
found that gratitude can increase physical activity levels, reduce the effects of stress and improve sleep (Lavelock, et al., 2016).
Given these benefits, how can you make gratitude a daily habit rather than just a Thanksgiving ritual? I’ve found three practical
ways that work:
Depending on your preference, this can be done at the beginning of the day or the end of day – or even both.
It’s simple and doesn’t take much time, but it does require full attention. Take a few moments and identify the things
that you are most grateful for – stay with it until you come up with three. Make them specific rather than generic.
Just don’t rattle off the same three each time. Try it for a few weeks and see what you notice.
One of the things I’m grateful for is a lesson I learned in a conversation in 2009 with Carol Kauffman, Founder and Executive
Director of the Institute of Coaching. She shared that she learned to change her thinking on some tasks from “I have to do X…..”
to ” I get to do……”. There’s a lot of gratitude packed into that shift of just one word. What do you get to do?
Some people prefer a daily practice of writing down what their grateful for. Tim Ferris recommends The Five Minute Journal,
which includes a section on gratitude. Family members who’ve used it like it.
It’s a great time of year to stop and give thanks. It’s also a great time to start a new habit that will help make next year one to savor
and appreciate along the way.
Lavelock, C. R., Griffin, B. J., Worthington,Everett L.,,Jr, Benotsch, E. G., Lin, Y., Greer, C. L., . . . Hook, J. N. (2016). A qualitative review and integrative model of gratitude and physical health. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 44(1), 55-86.