“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” -Cicero
We all know that the Thanksgiving holiday is about giving thanks. Nevertheless, in the bustle (and stress) of the holiday season—as well as in the eagerness to dive into comatose-inducing consumption of bountiful spreads—the actual practice of gratitude often gets short shrift at the holiday table.
Psychologists who have studied the issue assert a regular gratitude practice has a number of significant, measurable benefits, including improved mental and physical health and quality of relationships. This year, as many people are feeling the weight of a divisive election season, and some find themselves worrying about the future of their country and their planet, a meaningful connection with gratitude may be more important than ever.
We suggest you try one of these practices this Thanksgiving to help you and your loved ones cultivate this beneficial quality.
1. Conduct an Appreciation Circle.
Gather the family around in a circle. Anyone who feels called to express appreciation for anyone else in the circle starts the process: expressing their appreciation for that person however they feel called to do so. Then you go around the circle from there—each person picking one other person in the circle to acknowledge per turn. Anyone can be free to pass if they want to. You can go around as many times as feels right.
Often, appreciation breeds more appreciation—soon, family members who may have long been feeling neglected may find themselves receiving nourishing positive feedback. Sometimes this practice can even open the door to the start of healing long-held feuds or resentments. We’ve seen it happen! Either set a time limit (on each expression, or on the total time of the circle), or let it go until it’s played itself out. You many be amazed at how good everyone feels when it’s over!
2. Record Your Appreciation for Posterity
Get large pieces of construction paper and give one to each member of the family. Have each person write their name on their paper. Place them around the floor of your living room. Then, have everyone go around and write what they appreciate, love, respect, or admire about each person on their paper. After it’s over, everyone gets to read and take home all their yummy feedback.
3. Play a Gratitude Game
Have everyone write one thing that exists in the world on a piece of paper. It can be anything: oceans, baseball, New York City, God, spaghetti, Jerry Seinfeld . . . you name it. Put them all in a bowl on the table. Have each person take a turn pulling out a piece of paper. Whatever is on it, the person who chose it is tasked to do their best to state, in 2 minutes, however many reasons they can come up with why they feel grateful for that thing. Even if their initial reaction is to think, “No, I hate that!”, they MUST come up with however many reasons they can within the 2 minutes. At the end, award prizes for the most reasons produced, and the most creative reasons produced.
4. Make something up yourself!
There’s always new ways to generate healthy, nourishing gratitude.
From all of us at Conscious Family, we wish you and your family an appreciation-filled Thanksgiving holiday.