Gratitude: The Art Of Thanks
Dream journals. Remember those? I’m sure at some point in our lives we’ve all scribbled down something, be it as farfetched as riding to the moon in a marshmallow chariot, or getting to work on time!
The funny thing about dream journals is that more often than not, they leave us bitter. Our dreams rarely match up with reality. Now, imagine if we kept a gratitude journal instead. Think about it – everyday, instead of scribbling down something you wished for, you wrote something you were grateful for. It could be the rain that caused the bus driver to wait that extra minute or a colleague remembering your birthday. If we took a few minutes each day to be grateful instead of perpetually wishful, I’m sure we’d be so overwhelmed by the things that fill our lives that we’d soon need an outlet for all our pent-up gratitude!
And that’s where the art of thanksgiving comes in.
For me, sharing food with loved ones is like sharing a piece of your heart – there’s nothing I love more. It makes sense then that Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays. Every year on the fourth Thursday of November I gather with friends and family to feast and give thanks. Turkey, cranberry sauce and a pumpkin pie are almost always involved (as are leftovers).
Though today’s celebrations would seem incomplete without the trappings of American Football and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the holiday has simpler origins. The first American Thanksgiving was celebrated in November 1621 when the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians gathered together to celebrate a bountiful autumn harvest. Similar festivities are observed the world over, and have been long before 1621. Brazil and Canada have their own Thanksgiving Days. The people of Ghana and Nigeria celebrate an annual Yam Festival. In Korea, Ch’usok is held each year and is marked by dancing and ceremonial food. The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated by the peoples of Vietnam (where it is known as Tet Trung Thu) and China (the Moon Festival), and the Jewish tradition celebrates Sukkot on the fifth day of Yom Kippur.
The common thread? Giving thanks for provision.
[column-break]In our house, we always reserve a few minutes before carving the turkey to take turns sharing what we’re most thankful for. In fact, recent studies have shown that the simple act of demonstrating gratitude can strengthen relationships and make us happier and more satisfied with our lives – and who wouldn’t want that?
Imagine if every day we consciously focused on what we have to be thankful for and made a habit of showing gratitude to our families, friends, co-workers, even to God?
What if we actually counted our blessings one by one?
What if we said and meant thanks more often and expressed it with our actions as well? I, for one, love the thought of a world in which we’re constantly trading words and acts of thanks not out of obligation but out of a real appreciation for one another.
Now, if you think just a sincere ‘thank you’ is underrated these days, why not try one of the following:
a. Write a note or letter expressing your appreciation and affirmation (or pick up the phone). This can be particularly effective when it’s unexpected, and words—especially of the heartfelt variety—are powerful.
b. Give a gift. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or expensive; my husband loves it when I bring home his favourite sweets, and one of my habits is bringing co-workers a pastry from our local bakery. However, feel free to pull out all the stops with flowers, concert tickets, or spa treatments if you’ve got a little extra cash flow.
c. Pick up the tab for coffee or dinner. This falls under the umbrella of gift-giving, but with the added benefit of face time. In the age of the screen, we could all use a little more of that.
d. Offer help. Our time is valuable, and there are few things more meaningful than giving it up. Have a friend who’s moving? Roll up your sleeves and help them pack (or unpack). Got a co-worker who’s got a deadline on a project at work? Lend a hand.
However you choose to thank, it’s the motivation that’s important. With time and practice, we can all master the art of thanksgiving.
Written by: Caitlin Haught
Edited by: Justina Kehinde