Tomorrow is the big day. Thanksgiving. It’s often a holiday of family time, over-indulgence and maybe some football. It’s also a day traditionally set aside to celebrate gratitude. Today I want to offer some ideas to help keep the “thanks” in Thanksgiving and bring more meaning to a wonderful day.
Share gratitude. The simplest tradition is to go around the table during the meal and have everyone share a couple things that they are grateful for. Encourage people to give some details either directly or by asking questions (e.g. “Why are you grateful for your mom?”) .
Pull out gratitude cards. Sometime before the meal, have everyone fill out three cards sharing something they are grateful for. Make a game of pulling out a card throughout the meal and reading it. After the meal, you can pick a selection of them to go into a scrapbook that can be added to each year, so you create a historical gratitude tracker.
Pull out gratitude cards, option 2. Ahead of the meal, write down several different categories on small cards or sheets of paper: include things like day, place, experience, food, person, item, health, etc. Then go around the table and have each person draw out a card and share something they are grateful for in that category and why.
Say grace. Many families thank God or the Universe for the bounty on the table and the blessings in their lives. You can add to or modify that tradition by thinking about and thanking everything and everyone involved in the meal: the rain, the sun and the soil that allowed the food to grow; the people who tended the fields or cared for the animals; those who picked the ripe produce or processed it; everyone who transported the food from the farm to the stores; those who unloaded the trucks and stocked the grocery store and ran the checkout. You can get even more personal by appreciating the person who went to the store, bought the food and prepared it with love for the celebration, and all the people around the table who came together to enjoy the meal in love. (This is a particularly fun one to do with kids, or if your family has a little competitive spirit: “Who or what else do we need to thank?”
Show and tell gratitude. Have everyone bring items to the dinner table that represent good things in their lives. This method can be particularly effective with kids who might otherwise not be able to come up with something on the spot.
Write thank you notes. Have notes or stationary and colorful pens and markers available throughout the day and encourage everyone to write a thank-you letter or note to someone they are grateful for – a friend, family member or teacher.
Gratitude speed writing. Sometime before the meal, get some paper and pens and a timer and have everyone come to the table. Set the timer for four minutes and then read the following instructions “Make a list of everything that you are grateful for. List anything that comes to mind by speedwriting. This means you write as fast as you can without stopping. Include things both large and small. Don’t judge your answers. Just let things flow in a stream-of-consciousness way.” You can have people share things from their list then or prime the table with questions about the list over the course of the meal. It can be fun to ask for some of the sillier or smaller things that came up in the exercise.
If some of your guests tend to shyness, you can send an email today to let them know if you are going to do one of the exercises above. Having them spend a day thinking about what they are grateful for can be a great way to increase their happiness!