Thanksgiving is a day of thanks and giving, as the name implies. It’s a day we set aside to feel and express gratitude for all that we have, to slow down and nourish ourselves with what really fills our bucket. We focus on what’s good, what we love—our blessings. We fill and fulfill ourselves with good food, good company, and celebrate the importance of friends, family, and longings of the heart. So too, we reconnect with our basic kindness, generosity, and turn our attention, on purpose, to our humanity, and the experiences that connect and nourish us, for real.
What a wonderful tradition indeed. A yearly sabbath of sorts when we consciously step off the treadmill of busyness, productivity, and getting, and devote our attention to appreciation, goodness and love—the very best of the human being. Thanksgiving is a day when we practice wanting what we have.
The big secret is that the nourishment we set aside for Thanksgiving, one day per year, can be something we feed ourselves every day. While we might not feast on the mashed potatoes and pie part of Thanksgiving every day, we can in fact feast on the heart food part of this ritual, the gratitude and kindness, the thanks and giving. And, we can do that every single day of our lives, in one form or another.
Pausing throughout the day to notice the little moments (or big ones) that we appreciate—gestures, interactions, experiences, anything that just feels connected, heart-filling, satisfying, joyful, warm—good—creates an amazing ripple effect. We start to experience appreciation even more and remarkably, more of the appreciate-able moments seem to show up. Just the simple act of taking a second to deliberately notice what we appreciate moment to moment injects a noticeable dose of happiness into our lives.
In addition, when we end each day with a conscious noting of what we appreciated throughout the day, what went well, what we enjoyed, what we liked about ourselves and others, the world, our life, we are effectively locking in a positivity and depositing a currency of goodness into our emotional heart-bank.
Paying attention to what we appreciate, stopping to give thanks inside ourselves and to others on a daily basis is one way of living Thanksgiving every day–making Thanksgiving a habit.
So too, a daily Thanksgiving involves a practice of giving—the second half of the Thanksgiving word equation. We can look for the opportunities to offer kindness to others, just because, without a goal—to offer a moment of undistracted listening, word of support, non-judgmental presence, curiosity, a smile, kind glance, moment of patience, a real hug—something that perhaps will lead the other to appreciate what they experienced with us. Every day we can give ourselves the experience of being appreciate-able. Whether or not the other person notices or mentions it is not what’s important; giving to another is a gift to them, yes, but more than anything it’s a gift to ourselves. We appreciate ourselves (and our life) when we give; we feel good about ourselves when we behave as the person we want to be.
Every day when you wake up, ask yourself:
- What kind of person do I want to be in the world today?
- Pick a word to live by (patience, kindness, curiosity, presence—whatever resonates) and live your day through and infused with that word. When you notice you’ve forgotten that way of being or have 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 filled my bucket, 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 (perhaps) did I miss the mark today and so have an opportunity to grow?
Thanks and giving are ways of life, not just things we do one day a year. Pausing, every day, to notice what we already have, what’s already here, what we’re not lacking, is an easy and joyful practice to get in the habit of. Thanksgiving is a habit we can build; just like we build bad habits, we can build good habits. Thanksgiving on a daily and deliberate basis is a practice that pays back in spades. It’s not hard to do, not something you have to change clothes or travel for; it’s not sweaty, painful, irritating, boring, or difficult. And, what it gives back is profound. In terms of bang for our buck, Thanksgiving is a habit that delivers.
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 believe that more stuff, more pleasure, more entertainment, more fame, more followers, more, more, more, more of everything, but mostly more me, will finally make us happy. But here’s the problem: it doesn’t; the more we get, the more we crave and the more convinced we become that we don’t have enough, don’t have what we need, can’t want what we have. The more we try to get enough, the more we feel like we don’t have enough. It’s a Sisyphean Conundrum. We roll the boulder up the hill only to have it roll right back down on us.
It’s no surprise that Black Friday sits on Thanksgiving’s heels. If we wanted what we had for too long, if we knew that we were okay just as we are, we might realize that we don’t actually need more stuff to be happy; 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, that we can be okay right here where we are, satisfied with what’s already here.
There’s no doubt that appreciation, wanting what we have, 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 habit, every day, not just one Thursday at the end of November each year. There are few habits so easy and enjoyable to practice that can so fundamentally change who you are and how you experience your life.