This is being written on the day before Thanksgiving in America. Although celebration dates differ, many countries have similar holidays.
While it is appropriate to take a day off and focus on the many things for which we are grateful, particularly if we can spend the day with family and friends, I always see Thanksgiving as a time to reset the gratitude part of my life for the year ahead. I do this in two ways.
First of all, I pledge to stay conscious of good things that happen throughout the coming year. As a species, we tend to have a “negativity bias” which has historically had survival value in alerting us to dangers from natural elements and other tribes or nations. It does, however, cause us to remember the bad things that happen to us more than the good things. As a contrast, neuropsychologist Rick Hanson has developed a concept that he calls “taking in the good”, which involves focusing on, appreciating, and savoring the good experiences that we have. While those good experiences can include time spent in nature appreciating a beautiful day or an amazing sunset, many other good experiences are initiated by other people in our environment. Every year I pledge to be more conscious of taking in the good as well as expressing gratitude toward others who make this world a better place.
The other thing that I try to figure out each Thanksgiving is what I can do in the year ahead to help others feel more thankful. Are there people in my environment who provide service and are taken for granted without being thanked often enough? Is there someone who is fighting an uphill battle in pursuit of a goal who can use my encouragement or a bit of my expertise? Can I do something to make someone’s life easier – if I just remember to do it?
I really enjoy the the celebratory aspects of Thanksgiving but opportunity to reset the gratitude part of my life has become an integral part of the holiday for me. You may want to try it too. If you have developed a system for enhancing the Thanksgiving experience, I hope that you will share it with us.