5 Ways to Up Your Thanksgiving Gratitude

Sure, it’s easy to feel thankful for a perfectly cooked turkey or a pumpkin-pie crust that turned out light and flaky; but there are huge opportunities for deeper gratitude on Thanksgiving, and exploring them might make you both happier and healthier.

“Gratitude has many benefits for our mental and physical health,” says Kira M. Newman, managing editor of Greater Good Magazine, published by the Greater Good Science Center based at UC Berkeley.

“These days many of us practice gratitude on our own,” says Newman, “but research suggests that expressing gratitude out loud to others can be even more powerful. Creating a gratitude practice at Thanksgiving is a great way to encourage that, and to strengthen your relationships with the people around the table.”

Here are some creative ideas to begin a new gratitude practice for your family this Thanksgiving holiday:

Butcher Paper Praise
Cover your table with butcher paper and give everyone markers to write or draw a few things they’re thankful for on the paper. Then go around the table so everyone has a chance to share what they are grateful for aloud.

Shower Them with Appreciation
In addition to sharing what you’re grateful for, focus on gratitude toward one another: Newman suggests picking one person to start with, and then having everyone say something they appreciate about that person (as simple as “He brought a lot of enthusiasm to carving that turkey”).

Write Your Heart Out
Give each person at your table a gratitude journal. Have everyone write their name at the top of the first blank page. Pass it around so that each person at the table can write what they love and appreciate about that person. When the gratitude journal makes its way back to the owner, it will be full of love and gratitude for the person it belongs to. Encourage each person to read aloud some of the praise they have received. This is also a good way to start a gratitude journal practice that continues beyond the holiday.

Take a Mindful Post-Meal Walk
Many families enjoy a post-meal, before-dessert walk together to wake up from the indulgent tryptophan haze. Incorporate some mindfulness together to make it more memorable: “Keep an eye out for awe opportunities,” says Newman. “Look up at those huge skyscrapers or trees, marvel at your kids’ smiles, or simply pay attention to everyday sights in a new way.” Bring a camera to capture sweet moments and share the photos with everyone afterwards. Simply slowing down together to watch the leaves rustle, listen to the breeze and smell the earth can bring you into the present moment together. Encourage each person to share what they noticed with the group.

Imagine All the People
It’s not just the chefs of the day who brought the delicious food to your table. Take a moment to appreciate all of the people who helped manifest your meal into existence: the farmers who grew the potatoes, the drivers who delivered them to your local store, the mechanics who maintained the delivery trucks, the produce manager who arranged the vegetables on display, the store clerk you paid to purchase the food. Many lives contributed to the bountiful meal in front of you. Take time this Thanksgiving to appreciate and share this understanding of all the hands that feed you.

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