On the Truth of Thanksgiving and the Practice of Gratitude

On the Truth of Thanksgiving and the Practice of Gratitude

Tomorrow in the United States is Thanksgiving Day, a holiday that brings mixed feelings.

For most of my life, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. I was born on Thanksgiving Day, so that’s part of it. But I loved this holiday because it was about gathering with loved ones and sharing food and being grateful. No other hoopla.

How beautiful.

But then I got older and Thanksgiving got more complicated.

Sometimes I wasn’t having such a great time with my loved ones. Then, I started sharing Thanksgiving with less-than-loved ones, people I didn’t feel at home with, people who would fight and say awful things on Thanksgiving. This wasn’t my idea of a holiday.

Some years I was scrambling to get myself invited to someone’s house for Thanksgiving, so I wouldn’t be alone.

And the crazed collective tension of the holidays seems to ramp up more intensely and earlier each year.

Then I started to learn how the Thanksgiving holiday actually came about. If you don’t know, this beautiful 10-minute video is a great place to start: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vHVxr7txqU&t=633s

This year I’m sharing the day with friends and acquaintances at a big outdoor gathering, people who are choosing to come together out of friendship, not obligation. I’m really looking forward to it.

And I’m also aware that there is so much history in this country that needs to be aired and healed collectively if we are ever to move forward into a more loving, sustainable, just way of life for all of creation. I feel the grief of the genocide of the native peoples of this land and how our violent past continues to harm us all.

A few quick words about gratitude

A few weeks ago I got hit hard with seasonal depression (and also situational depression). I’ve moved out of it now, but while I was still in it, I returned actively to the practice of gratitude as an antidote.

Gratitude can be hard to feel sometimes, especially if you’re depressed. But it can also really help. One thing to know about it: If you can’t feel it, don’t force it.

In returning to gratitude, I’ve been both writing in my journal in the mornings and stopping at least once a day, often at the end of the day when I’m lying in bed, to appreciate and give thanks for one or more things.

The key is to find something you truly feel grateful for—not the usual list of things you are “supposed to” feel grateful for—and then to dive into why you feel grateful for it. Don’t just make a list. Write (or think) a few sentences about why you appreciate it. What in particular do you love or enjoy about this?

Here’s an example: I just started taking a new drumming class last night. What fun! It feels so good to sit in a circle with others, to play music again, to be learning something new. And the teacher is wonderful.

Doing this for a couple of weeks has made a noteworthy difference in uplifting my spirits and outlook. I am finding more and more things to appreciate naturally as I move through my day, pausing to enjoy things more, and feeling better in general. I hope this helps you too.

And however you choose to spend Thanksgiving Day, may it be a beautiful, peaceful, and blessed day.

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