Hi friends! Are you feelin’ the holiday spirit? Thanksgiving can be a fun-filled holiday and an opportunity to catch up with family members you don’t get to speak to very often. When your family’s after-dinner-ritual is to watch sports together or play board games, that’s something you can look forward to for an entire year. Or maybe you have a special Thanksgiving tradition with a group of friends.
However, Thanksgiving is also a stressful time. Shopping for groceries, cooking dinner for a large group of people, making sure your family or your guests get along… most of us need a few days to recover from all of this. (P.S. If you host a Thanksgiving party this year, props to you, yo!)
And then there’s the actual ‘giving thanks’ part. Feeling forced to say the obligatory ‘thank you’, especially when you feel anything BUT grateful, can leave anyone feel grumpy. Here’s a few tips to make Thanksgiving a less grumpy and more grateful experience. (Make sure you download the free checklist with 30 helpful gratitude prompts!)
Why only give thanks at Thanksgiving? Start early, or better yet today.
Start practicing gratitude the week before Thanksgiving. One of the ways to do this as a family is to have everyone write down things they’re grateful for during the day and put these notes in a gratitude jar. Open the jar on Thanksgiving day and read the gratitude notes out loud.
You could also make gratitude a dinner time habit, so that each night leading up to Thanksgiving everyone shares the thing they’re most grateful for. Or create a text messaging group with a group of friends to share your gratitude.
Choose the right gratitude practice
For anyone who’s a bit shy, expressing gratitude around the Thanksgiving table can seem awkward. Gratitude can be an afterthought for the stressed-out host of the party.
Having to express gratitude out loud can feel like social pressure. That’s not the way to go when you want people to feel comfortable and the thanksgiving to have meaning. The best gratitude practices are ones we choose, not ones we feel forced into based on circumstances.
There’re a lot of different ways to practice gratitude. In my ebook Pick your Practice you'll find a comprehensive list (+ descriptions) of dozens of types of gratitude practices. Choose one that fits your guests.
Can’t wait to download your list of 30 gratitude prompts? Just click the image below.
Take differences in personality into account
Be flexible when you’ve chosen the gratitude practice that’s most suitable for your family. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Introverts may feel put on the spot during the Thanksgiving gratitude ritual. They may feel gratitude deeply but can’t conjure it up on command.
Let the creative spirit in your family create place cards or table cards. Encourage that friend or family member to not only put each person’s name on the cards but also to express (write/draw/paint/…) what makes them grateful when it comes to each person.
Take a moment to think before you thank
Have a li’l quiet time before the Thanksgiving meal to do a short gratitude meditation, recite a poem about gratitude, or read a passage from a book that inspires you. Each of these will help you think of something concrete to say in front of family and friends.
Or turn up the music and have a loud and fun dance party to songs like Rita Ora’s ‘Grateful’ or ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams. If that doesn’t set the mood, I don’t know what will. :)
Related post: 8 tips that make practicing gratitude a LOT easier
Make giving thanks a conversation
Think back to last year’s round of gratitude at Thanksgiving dinner. Did it go something like this: you said the same thing you say every year, everyone smiles, and then it’s aunt Edna’s turn? Yup, I thought so. This is what happens at most dinner tables.
Usually our statements of gratitude are brief and broad, something along the lines of “I’m grateful for my family and my health.” But the more detailed you get the more you’ll actually feel grateful. As I explained in Growing Gratitude it’s better to give five reasons why you’re grateful about one thing than to just name five things you’re grateful for.
When a family member expresses their gratitude ask them to explain or elaborate. Ask each other questions. Take each person’s contribution seriously and talk about it.
Use gratitude prompts
One way to keep the conversation flowing is to use gratitude prompts. Prompts can be used as topics of discussion or as a reminder. They can help you realise things you’re grateful for that you hadn’t thought of before, like a sunset, help you received from a mentor, or a personality trait you’re proud of.
I created a list of 30 helpful gratitude prompts for you. You can download this FREE checklist right here:
What if you sit alone at the table?
This exercise might be a bit of stretch for some of you, but it can be a great way to ignite grateful feelings.
Many of us wonder on occasion what our lives might have been like had we never met that someone special. You can ask your guests a variation of this question. Ask your family or friends to close their eyes and imagine themselves without anyone to spend Thanksgiving with. Imagining a solitary Thanksgiving can invoke gratitude. Plus, opening your eyes to a table full of smiling faces is a huge bonus.
Change your perspective
Thanksgiving is a stressful day. Yup, it is. Get your stress levels down by changing your perspective.
If some of you family members spend the entire day in the kitchen and they send you away every time you try to start a conversation with them, then at least you have time to talk to other family members, watch sports, or read a book.
If the turkey is so overcooked and dry that it tastes more like cardboard than poultry, feel grateful that there’re no bacteria left to give you food poisoning.
If you‘re seated next to boring aunt Edna (there’s that darn aunt Edna again :) who goes on and on about knitting, at least give thanks for the fact that you have more exciting hobbies.
Save the giving thanks for after dinner
The dinner table can be a overly formal setting. For most people it’s easier to express gratitude in a more relaxed environment. Maybe take a walk after dinner and really appreciate the beautiful fall scenery. Or set up a board game and talk about what you’re grateful for while playing the game. Sometimes it’s easier to talk when you don’t have to look each other in the face. That’s when the best conversations happen.
Create a challenge
If you’re part of a competitive family this could be a great way to make giving thanks more fun for you. Create a competition where anyone who loses a board game has to name three things they’re grateful for. Or make it a challenge: whoever writes down the most things they’re grateful for about the food on the table wins an extra piece of pecan pie.
Don’t forget to download the checklist. Use these 30 helpful gratitude prompts this Thanksgiving. Just click the image below.
These tips help you to stop seeing gratitude as a Thanksgiving chore and, hopefully, start seeing gratitude as a meaningful way of thinking year-round. (Need more help with that? Take a peek here.) Even the most grumpy teenager or cynical uncle will get in the spirit when you implement these tips. Let me know about your experiences. I’d love to know. Just leave a comment below.