Thanksgiving marks a season for gratitude, and there are lots of ways to share that feeling with people you care about.
How can you say thanks to friends, family, coworkers and other people in your world? And what’s the best way to cultivate gratitude for your own life?
Less can be more when it comes to sharing gratitude, says Mark Flanagan, LMSW, MPH, MA, a social worker at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont. Often, it’s all about the little things.
“The simpler, the better,” he says.
Showing gratitude for others
The Thanksgiving season is the perfect time to show people how much you value them. But you don’t need to buy flowers or plan grand gestures, Flanagan says. Small expressions of gratitude can go a long way.
“I think that when we try to overcomplicate things, it comes across as being insincere,” he says. “Find something that you genuinely value about someone, and just tell them.”
Similarly, you don’t have to reserve a sense of gratitude for huge favors. Recognizing the little things helps people feel seen and appreciated, Flanagan says.
Thank someone who always shares a smile at work, for example. Or tell your partner what a great parent they are.
You can make gratitude part of your family’s Thanksgiving traditions in the same way. Find a quiet time during the holiday, and let your loved ones know how thankful you are for even small kindnesses.
Cultivating gratitude in your life
Sometimes it can feel tougher to find gratitude for your own world. But again, the key is to start small.
Flanagan recommends keeping a gratitude journal, which can condition you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. Eventually, you’ll feel a greater sense of contentment.
“It lets you feel like you’re actually shaping your life,” he says.
Gratitude journals can offer wide-ranging benefits, Flanagan says. They help you to:
- Track your thoughts and emotions. Did someone do something nice for you? If you record it in your journal, you can return to those positive feelings later and share them.
- Build momentum for more gratitude.Once you get accustomed to journaling, you’ll “keep your eyes open for positive things,” Flanagan says.
He also suggests trying gratitude meditations or walking meditations.
“In anything that can get us more centered, we tend to be more grateful,” he says.
How to overcome negativity and reset your attitude
Sometimes we get stuck in a funk, and that’s OK. No one is perfect or feels happy all the time.
But when you do find yourself mired in negative feelings, Flanagan says, you can use some strategies to re-center your mind and return to a place of peace.
Awkward conversations at the Thanksgiving table? Politely change the subject. After-dinner disagreements about football? Perhaps it’s time to take a walk.
“Remove yourself from that situation temporarily,” Flanagan says. You’ll defuse tension and keep yourself calmer.
It can also help to focus on the basic, essential things you have all around you. Is there a roof over your head? Are you eating and drinking enough? Do you have clothing? The core necessities of your life are met, and that’s more than many people have—truly something to be thankful for.
“Focus on the basics, and try to do a reboot,” Flanagan says. Avoid comparing yourself with others or fantasizing about something better.
“Check in, and see if you’re still breathing,” he says. “If you’re still breathing, there’s more right than wrong with you.”
The benefits of gratitude
Gratitude does more than just make you feel good: It’s actually good for you too.
Practicing gratitude can have a positive long-term impact on:
Gratitude isn’t just for the Thanksgiving season, either. You can practice it daily, and the more you do it, the easier it will feel.
“It’s accessible to all of us,” Flanagan says. “The best thing to do is start today.”