My favourite holiday is coming up. This is a day that has no religious affiliations, nothing to do with gift giving or mad rushes to the mall to get the perfect present. It doesn’t have anything to do with money at all. In fact, this holiday stands for the exact opposite.
A Very Brief History of Thanksgiving in Canada
Thanksgiving was brought to us by a mash-up of a few events from our Canadian history. The first being that of the English explorer Martin Frobisher. He and his crew were trying to find a northern passage to Asia. They were not able to find one, but they did establish a settlement in what is now Newfoundland. To give thanks for surviving their long journey, they held a celebration in 1578.
European settlers brought over their version of thanksgiving by celebrating the harvest, and over many years, long ago, people moving from the US to Canada brought their version of the day.
All of these traditions have brought us our modern day of thanks every year on the second Monday of October, and I am so grateful.
The idea that we still have a national holiday to give thanks for whatever we hold dear, makes my heart melt. It is special to have a day set apart for just looking at all we have and being thankful with our loved ones. Family gathers, and the harvest is shared.
How can we take the thoughtful, loving idea behind Thanksgiving and make it a daily act? What is it about the day that makes it special and feel so good?
Gratitude is focusing on all the postitive we have in our lives, taking the time to feel the happiness and joy we get from these things, and saying thank you for them. It is the feeling of being grateful for all that we have rather than focusing on the negative.
On Thanksgiving, we usually say a prayer for all that we are grateful for, and these tend to be big things: a new baby, a marriage, our health, the delicious food on the table. The great thing about daily gratitude is that it makes you look at all the small things too: a smile from a stranger, a goofy squirrel running up a tree, your favourite book, TV show, or movie, etc.
There have been a number of studies lately looking for any benefits to gratitude, and they have found numerous ways we react to being grateful.
One popular study was conducted by Michael McCollough and Robert Emmons (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). The participants were divided into three groups.
The first group was told to keep a journal of things for which they were grateful. The second group also kept a journal but with things they considered a hassle. And the third were told nothing specific – neither positive or negative.
When looking at the information after the 10 week trial, they found that the grateful group felt 25% happier than those in either of the two other groups. They found that the participants in this group did more exercise per week than the other two, were more optimistic about the future, felt less depression and stress, were more energetic, and were more likely to help others.
They also found that those who practice gratitude daily have stronger immune systems, deal with adversity better, are more creative, and make greater progress towards personal goals. Those are some amazing findings.
Robert Emmons wrote a book about all of the studies he has done on gratitude and their results. Check out ‘Thanks! How The New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier.’*
Gratitude is finding the things in your life that make you happy and make it worth living. It is not saying that life should always be perfect and great, but rather we realize that every day we do have blessings.
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Ways to Practice Gratitude Daily
All of the research looks pretty amazing, but until we know how to put it into practice, it is useless. There are some very easy ways to be grateful daily, and I will share just a few of them with you here.
Write In a Gratitude Journal
This seems to be the most common route people take when practicing gratitude. It is a simple way to start. Use an old journal you have lying around – if you are like me you have many! Pick a time every day to write down a certain number of things you are grateful for that day. Start with 3 and work your way up slowly to 10, and see how that feels.
It is good to have this as a part of your daily routine so that you are sure to write. I do mine at night while I am lying in bed. It gets me in a great mental space for sleeping, and I feel better when I wake up.
Some people say that writing this down makes them feel the gratitude stronger than if they were to just say it aloud. I like to say it out loud and visualize the event or moment because this allows me to feel it the strongest. Find the way that works the best for you because you will be more likely to continue on after the initial honeymoon phase of this new habit.
Write a Thank You Letter
If there is someone in your life that has made it better in some way – a coach, mentor, family member, friend, etc – write a letter to them letting them know how you feel and how much they are appreciated. You can send or read it to them, but you can also just keep the letter to read when you need a lift. Knowing someone out there loves us and cares for us that much will pick up a bad mood pretty quick.
Start a Gratitude Jar
Use an old mason jar to fill up with the things you are grateful for during one year. When the year is up, take out all the papers and read them.
This can be started for the new year, a birthday, an anniversary, tomorrow! Just remember to check it in a year.
Give Thanks At Meals
Before anyone at the table begins to eat their meal, have everyone go through one thing they are thankful for that day. This has the added bonus of bringing our body into the rest and digest mode so we can assimilate all of the nutrients we can. You can even do this when you are eating alone – just take a minute to list one or two things you are grateful for before eating.
There are so many more ways to give thanks, so if none of these work for you, just search for ways to practice gratitude, and you will be amazed how many come up! There is something out there for you.
If you do not already have a gratitude practice, I challenge you to start today. The great thing is that you do not need anything. All you need is to change your perspective a little. Give one of the above suggestions a try for two weeks and see where you notice the difference.
After the two weeks, come back to this post and leave me a comment. I would love to hear how it has affected your life, or you can leave me a comment letting me know what you are grateful for right now. At this moment, I am so grateful that you are here reading these words. Thank you!
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