Thanksgiving, as the name implies, is a day of thanks and giving. It’s a day we set aside to feel and express gratitude for all that we have.
We focus on what’s good in our lives—our blessings.
We celebrate the importance of friends and family with good food and warm company. The day gives us a chance to reconnect with our basic kindness and generosity. We can turn our attention to our humanity, and the experiences that connect and nourish us.
What a wonderful tradition. A yearly sabbath of sorts, when we consciously step off the treadmill of busyness, productivity, and getting. Thanksgiving encourages us to devote our attention to appreciation, goodness, and love—the very best of humanity. Thanksgiving is a day when we practice wanting what we have.
The big secret is that the nourishment we set aside for Thanksgiving can be something we feed ourselves on a daily basis. While we might not feast on mashed potatoes and pie, we can feast on the gratitude and kindness—the thanks and the giving.
We can do that every single day of our lives, in one way or another.
Pausing throughout the day to notice the little moments (or big ones) that we appreciate—gestures, interactions, experiences, anything that lets us feel connected, satisfied, or joyful—creates an amazing ripple effect.
We start to find ourselves more filled with appreciation, and find more to appreciate throughout our day. The simple act of taking a second to deliberately notice what we appreciate injects a noticeable dose of happiness into our lives.
And when we end each day by noting what we appreciated throughout the day—what went well, what we enjoyed, what we liked about ourselves and others—we lock that positive experience into our emotional heart-bank.
A daily Thanksgiving also involves a practice of giving. We can look for opportunities to offer kindness to others, a moment of uninterrupted listening, a word of support, or a non-judgmental presence. Our curiosity, smile, and patience can all give others something to appreciate.
Whether the other person notices or mentions it is not what’s important; giving to another is a gift to ourselves more than anything. We feel good and appreciate ourselves and our life when we give. It gives us a form of dignity that cannot be feigned or gained any other way.
Every day when you wake up, ask yourself:
- What kind of person do I want to be in the world today?
- What principle do I want to live by today: patience, kindness, curiosity—whatever resonates. Then live your day infused with that word. When you notice you’ve forgotten it or missed the mark, just restart the day with your word leading the way.
- What do I want to offer to the world today?
Every evening before bed, consider the following:
- What did I appreciate today, what nourished my spirit, made me feel connected, inspired, joyful etc.?
- What did I do well today? Where am I proud of myself? Where have I grown?
- Where did I miss the mark today and so have an opportunity to grow?
Thanks and giving are ways of life, not just a holiday. Pausing to notice what we already have is an easy and joyful habit. Thanksgiving is an ability we can develop; just like we build bad habits, we can build good habits. Thanksgiving on a daily and deliberate basis gives us profound returns.
From a cultural perspective, it’s also interesting to notice that the day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday. While Thanksgiving is a day when we focus on what we have, on being thankful for what makes us happy, when we’re encouraged to feel our completeness, Black Friday is a day we focus, with vigor, on what we don’t have, what we could get that would make us feel better, and what else we need to be happy.
Our consumer-minded society trains us to pursue more stuff, more pleasure, more entertainment, more fame, more followers, more, more, more, more.
It is supposed to make us happy. It doesn’t.
The more we get, the more we crave and the more convinced we become that we don’t have what we need. We struggle to want what we have. The more we try to get enough, the more we need we feel.
It’s no surprise that Black Friday sits on Thanksgiving’s heels. If we wanted what we had for too long, we might realize that we don’t actually need more stuff. We might realize that it’s not stuff that nourishes us or makes us happy in any lasting way. We might realize that we have enough and are enough and that we can be satisfied with what’s already here.
There’s no doubt that appreciation, wanting what we have, and giving just because is bad for business. But there’s also no doubt that appreciation, wanting what we have and giving just because is good for everything else under the sun. Practice Thanksgiving, appreciate and give. Make it a daily habit.
There are few habits so easy and enjoyable to practice that can also change who you are and how you experience your life
Nancy Colier is a psychotherapist, interfaith minister, author, public speaker, and workshop leader. For more information, visit NancyColier.com