This Thanksgiving, Kindle the Growth of GratitudeNovember 24, 2016
“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.”
— A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
Thanksgiving is the time of year to ponder, “What am I thankful for?” But, rather than keeping it as a once-a-year exercise at the feast, gratitude is an attitude worth growing. Here’s why:
Gratitude is packed full of amazing health properties. It boosts the immune system, and reduces stress. It lowers the risk for developing diseases linked to stress (heart disease, cancer). Gratitude reduces hypertension and actually changes heart rate variability. Gratitude increases neurotransmitters in the brain (the ones that fight depression and make you feel content, happy, and peaceful). People who keep gratitude journals and write thank you notes are sick less often. Gratitude also helps people feel connected with others. People with gratitude have higher job performance (adults) and better grades (students). Gratitude is a mega vitamin for the soul. The more that gratitude is kindled, the greater its light grows in our hearts.
Gratitude is easier to grow through inspiration, rather than demands. Find people that inspire you—inspiring people like these.
Nick Vujicic was born without any limbs—he has a rare disorder called tetra-amelia syndrome. As a child, he struggled with his disability—mentally, emotionally, and physically—but by the time he was 17, his attitude had changed and he had started a non-profit organization. He is now happily married, has become a father, and works as a motivational speaker, addressing youth and adults about why he is able to be thankful.
The Jordan family is thankful for having less house, but more time together. After Mr. Jordon lost his job a few years ago, mom and dad were working 4 jobs between them to try to cover expenses, but they had less and less time to spend with their son, or with each other. They decided to downsize from their 2000-square-foot home to a 320-square-foot home. Mom, Dad, and their teenage son live comfortably in their unusually small space—because of their attitude. Debra Jordan explains, “It’s not about what you don’t have, it’s about what you do have.”
Gratitude can be for small and funny things too. Preschool children expressed reasons for their thankfulness: “my hamster, “my dog,” “my teacher,” “my mom and dad,” “my Legos,” “friends to give hugs to and share toys with,” “my pillow… and jumping,” “pancakes!”
Prayer Tree for All-Saints, to Thanksgiving and beyond to Advent. Photo credit: Lilly Lewin at Lilly’s Pad.Here are some great ways to kindle gratitude this Thanksgiving, so that its light will continue to grow all year. Select one or two to try with your family or guests:
- Keep a thanksgiving journal for a month, listing 2 or 3 things each day that you’re thankful for.
- Make gratitude orbs using grapevine balls. Have each family member write down one thing they’re grateful for each day, writing on cloth leaves (autumn colored) from the craft store. Drop these into the orbs each day. Decorate them with battery operated LED lights. Use them for your table decoration by displaying them in a large glass bowel or suspend them over the table.
- Make gratitude jars: use large mason jars filled with LED battery operated lights. Each person coming to your thanksgiving feast writes something they’re thankful for on a fall colored paper (cut in the shape of a leaf) and places it in the jar. Pass the jar and read the gratitude sentiments during dessert. Each family can take home a decorated jar as a reminder.
- Play the thanksgiving memory game. Starting with the letter “A,” the first person thinks of something that begins with that letter that he or she is thankful for. The next person gives thanks for something starting with “B” but has to also recite what the other person said for “A.” Thus the game progresses, with each person coming up with the next letter and remembering all the successive letters of gratitude in the correct order. This game can be difficult for children to play, but it will only help to improve their memory in the long term. One of my friend’s kids is really good at this memory game, but that might be because she often listens to educational songs on YouTube. These sort of songs increase kids memory, so it’s no wonder that her memory is so good when she plays this game!
- Bake up some gratitude rolls. When each guest comes to your house, have them write on a piece of paper what they are grateful for. The paper is inserted into dough and baked as rolls. The grateful thoughts are read out loud at the feast.
- “Grow” a gratitude tree. Go on a hike with your guests and collect branches. Arrange them in terra cotta pots (with marbles, small river rocks, modeling clay or florist’s sponge at the base) and decorate the “trees” with LED mini lights. Have each person, interview someone else about what he or she is thankful for and write it on small cards (cut out in leaf templates and attached to a ribbon). Decorate the tree with the leaves of gratitude.
- Make a Thanksgiving video collection of people’s responses to “What are you grateful for?” (Use your cell phone. Do a little editing and send them out as gifts for Christmas.)
Whatever craft project you select for Thanksgiving, adding LED holiday lights is a great idea. Micro-dots, minis, icicle lights, lights to wrap tree trunks, and rope lights in fall colors or warm whites are safe, cost effective, energy efficient, and beautiful. As you keep considering things to be thankful for, you may find, like Piglet, that gratitude grows beyond Thanksgiving Day.
— Doris Day