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Gratitude Practice

The Thanksgiving Holiday has traditionally been associated with giving thanks—thanks for our families, for the food that will be lovingly prepared and shared, and for other things we consider dear and important. But what happens after the dinner is finished, the football games watched, the family members departed to return to their distant homes?

Are we changed in any way? Have we caused change in any way? Or was our Thanksgiving, however sincere, a mere one-off nod to what we’ve received and enjoyed?

Let me suggest that perhaps we look at Thanksgiving as a time to be grateful, rather than just thankful. Gratitude has at least two components. It is a recognition of goodness. We recognize and declare that there are good things in the world and that we have been the beneficiaries of those gifts and benefits. The second component is that we recognize that the sources of these goodnesses are outside of ourselves. We accept and affirm that others—and if you belong to a religious tradition, perhaps even a higher power—have given us many gifts, large and small to help us build the goodness in our lives.

It is this second component that, if we think on it a bit, causes us to see that we have been supported and helped by many people.

And how we, in turn, have cared for and supported others as well.

The world can be a sad place, if we let it. But what change could we engender if we focused on the good and were grateful every day for the goodness in the world? And how can we bring this into our daily lives?

There are many sources for ways to develop a personal gratitude practice on the internet. Just Google “gratitude practice” and you’ll get nearly 38.5 million hits. But here are a few of my favorites:

1. Stop complaining. The problem you think you’re having is often not the problem: your attitude (thinking) is. Look for the positive in every situation.

2. Let others know that you are grateful for their presence in your lives. Every day. Affirmation of another’s inherent goodness fosters similar feelings and behaviors.

3. Be aware of your surroundings, and appreciate the wonders of Nature around you. Stop, look, see, smell and be grateful for the roses (even the thorns).

Start NOW. This moment is all the reality that we have. And as Frank Lloyd Wright said “The older I get the more beautiful life becomes.”

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!