It’s not just something to do on Thanksgiving. Daily gratitude practice can lower anxiety, raise serotonin (a calming chemical) in your brain, and increase your overall feeling of peace. When we think about the good stuff, we feel happier!
Gratitude means focusing on what you have instead of what you don’t have. Start simple: Did you wake up this morning? Nice. Can you breathe? Ah. Can you read these words? Wonderful. Life, breath, and a functioning brain – three huge gifts and you’ve just gotten started!
On Thanksgiving or any other day we can help each other find gratitude. Try working it:
On the fridge: Keep an ongoing gratitude list on your fridge for the month of November (or every month!) Let family members add daily posts, naming the best things that happened to them each day. Or have a friendly competition, seeing who can come up with the most.
Room by room: Stand in any room in your house and look around. What are you grateful for? The kids will say the television and the PlayStation 4. Don’t forget the roof, the clear air, the heat (or AC), the fact that you can stand, the fact that you’re together.
By categories: Each person picks a category and everyone else says three or more things they’re grateful for in that group. For example: Foods, Activities, Places to Go, People. Don’t be afraid to get creative – Things That Are Red, Things That Fly, Things That Make Noise, Things Bigger Than a House, Things That Aren’t Things!
As a gift to someone else: Each person identifies something they’re grateful for about each other person in the room (or at the table or in the family.) You can include people who aren’t present. Celebrate your loved ones and help them celebrate themselves.
By things to come: Expressing gratitude for people, places, situations, or events that haven’t yet showed up in your life helps to spark the dream, set the intention, begin the flow of action and circumstances that will enable them to become reality. You can be thankful for the grades that are going to improve, the car getting fixed, the wound healing, the right partner coming into your life, the dream job that’s just around the corner. Or be thankful for possibility itself.
By challenging each other: Each person comes up with a situation where it would be really hard to find gratitude, and the others have to provide things to be thankful for. If Mom asks, “What could we be thankful for if our house was burning down?” Dad might say, “That we’ve got insurance.” Ashley might say, “That we got out in time.” Aiden might say, “That firefighters came to help us.”
Gratitude right before you go to sleep brings positive neural connections into your dream state and resting body. Gratitude first thing when you wake up in the morning sets the tone for a positive day. Gratitude at any time helps bring calm and positivity into your body, mind, and spirit, which lowers anxiety. Ah, we can even be thankful for the power of gratitude.
Lisa M. Schab received a Bachelor of Science degree in interpersonal communications from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in clinical social work with honors from Loyola University of Chicago. She has 30 years experience as a practicing psychotherapist and 40 years experience as a freelance writer. Lisa has authored 18 self-help books for children, teens, and adults, including the international best-sellers, The Anxiety Workbook for Teens and The Self-Esteem Workbook for Teens. She has been interviewed as an expert for articles appearing in The New York Times, Scholastic Choices Magazine, Teen Vogue, Psych Central, Today’s Parent, Parent Circle, and The Mother Company, among others. She has also written professional training courses available for continuing education credit through Professional Development Resources (www.pdresources.com,) and has authored regular columns on Tweens & Teens for Chicago Parent Magazine and Healthy Families for Sun Newspapers. Earlier in her career she spent six years as an early childhood teacher and one year as a school social worker. Lisa is a member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW.)