Do you ever wonder about making Thanksgiving meaningful? Let’s see what John and his friends discovered; (excerpt from my upcoming book, “I Don’t Have Depression.”)
“On Saturday evening, we all met to plan for Making Thanksgiving Meaningful. When I reached Starbucks, Laila, Raj, and Maria were already there. They already had their coffee so I went to order. While I was standing in line, Martin entered the store. He joined me after saying hi to the gang. I asked him “what’s new?” He told me that he was looking forward to sharing some cool stuff with the group.
We got our coffees and joined the team. As soon as we sat down, I asked Martin, “What was so exciting you wanted to share?’
He said, “You know I see a shrink. She has started me on a gratitude journal.“
Maria teased with surprise, “You and a journal?”
“I know, isn’t it weird? Me and a journal.” Martin laughed, making a face; “At each appointment, my shrink would ask me what I was grateful for. Initially, I would have a hard time coming up with something. I felt that my life was miserable and nothing was working. She pushed me to come up with at least three things, things that I may have taken for granted; things that someone else may not have; like eyes to see or legs to walk or food or family etc. Then she gave me this guided gratitude journal with examples, different prompts, space to doodle, inspirational quotes etc. It helped me to think in a different way and now I am in the habit of writing every day.”
I asked, “So has it helped?”
Martin replied, “My gratitude journal makes me feel content. I don’t feel anxious that I should be doing something, getting something, or be somewhere else. It helps me own my place in the world and not fight whatever is already there. It helps me overcome my fears and anger.
I have discovered that I can read all the books on gratitude, but unless I practice, it doesn’t help. So that’s what I started… practicing.
I have tried the mantras for positive thinking. Sometimes they work and sometimes not. When I started practicing the gratitude journal, it helped me shift to positive thinking. I have become grateful for whatever experience I have (even unwanted). It has led me to ask, what can I learn from this experience of pain? What is my body telling me? Maybe I need to shift my thinking.”
Raj said, “That sounds like a wonderful practice.”
Martin added. “Yes, it is. And now, there is an app for my iPhone called “Stress to Joy.” Many of the tools I learned from my shrink are there, but especially this gratitude journal. I enter three things in it when I can’t write in my journal.
When Laila said that we were meeting to plan for Thanksgiving, I thought of sharing with you guys. I was not sure if you guys were going to laugh at me. It doesn’t sound very macho, right?.”
Raj interjected. “I think it’s great. I have heard many successful people talk about their gratitude practice. It is totally cool. I didn’t know how to start. This guided journal may help me start.”
“So we all can start our gratitude practice this Thanksgiving. I will bring a Guided Gratitude Journal for each of you as my gift.”
“I also have another idea,” Maria said.
“What?” I asked.
“A few years back, I wanted to do something different, so on Thanksgiving, I made a list of all the people who have made a difference in my life. I used to think that all my achievements were due to my intelligence and hard work. I am alone and no one cares.
When I made that list, I found so many people who affected my life and helped me become who I am — my old teachers, family members, friends, and neighbors, etc.
Many of them I had forgotten and some people’s names I couldn’t remember but their images are in my head. The list was long. So I decided to write or speak to them one by one during the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The people I couldn’t find, I gave gratitude in my heart. It felt wonderful. Maybe we all can do that. “
Laila responded, “What a great idea. I also wanted to share my experience with gratitude in action.”
GRATITUDE IN ACTION
“What is gratitude in action?’
“Well, I go with my faith community for service projects. Usually around Thanksgiving, we go toFood lifeline in Seattle. Did you know that 1 out of 9 people face hunger in Western Washington and 6 of them are kids? It is a huge issue even in our rich country.
Many people care and donate. Donations from big grocery stores and local food drives bring food items to this warehouse. But the items need to reach needy families on time.
So we as a group sort those items and make packets that are distributed to different food banks throughout the area. These food banks serve many needy families.
I find it so much fun making those packets with my friends. The most satisfying part is hearing the beneficiaries’ testimonials after the session. When I see an old lady or a young person get their basic needs met during their hard times, I feel that my Saturday morning sleep sacrifice is justified.”
“So we as a group can do that too. Our gratitude in action.” Maria said.
“And here I thought Thanksgiving was just eating turkey and shopping on Black Friday,” I commented sarcastically.
TIME WITH FAMILY
“Well, there is nothing wrong with eating and shopping as long as we do it intentionally. We get to meet and laugh with our families. My aunt usually has a jar at the entrance. Everyone puts their name on a card and puts it in the jar. After dinner, we all get a card with someone else’s name on it. We write one good thing about that person that we appreciate. Sometimes it is hard, but it helps us develop an appreciation for each other.
We all give grace for the food we receive and then also have fun with shopping for gifts during the Black Friday sale.” Maria shared.
“I like the eating and socializing part minus the crazy night shopping because I end up buying so many things I don’t need. I shop online now and only buy what is on my list. The money I save by not buying things I don’t want, compensates for the few dollars more that I pay by not shopping during the Black Friday sale.” Martin said.
Raj asked, “So what should we do? All of these ideas are great.”
“Can we do all three over a month?” Laila asked.
“I am game. My exams will be over in the first week of December. So I would have more time then.”
“Ok, Martin can get journals, and Laila will arrange for the service project. We will all
Start our journals with a list of people who made a difference in our lives. We can call or send a note to those people over the holidays.
Spend our Thanksgiving with our families mindfully (i.e., intentionally, nonjudgmentally, and appreciatively).
Volunteer for our gratitude in action project.
It sounds like a great idea. I am already excited. See you guys soon.” ( End of the excerpt)
What do you think?
Do any of the ideas appeal to you?
What are you going to do to make your Thanksgiving meaningful?
Let me know if any of the things I have shared helped you. I love to hear back from readers as it inspires me to continue to do more.
I share many tools and techniques that I have found to be helpful. They are not intended to replace treatments. Please seek treatment from licensed medical or health professionals as needed. I change all names for privacy.