While the tradition is deep-rooted in our culture, with long distances between family members and time constraints, it is becoming more difficult to find the time to get together.
Add to that fractured families, where unkind and hurtful things in the past keep us defensive; even when we do get together it is difficult to let go, relax and be thankful for one another.
We want peace in the world but we don’t necessarily want to seek it in our own homes.
It is difficult to seek out blessings when life is in turmoil. You may be faced with the loss of a job, a spouse who is dying, a best friend’s betrayal, a marriage that is unraveling or invasion of cancer. And yet, there are so many things to be grateful for if we just took the time to consider.
“We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.” ~ Harry Ironside
In a recent psycho-educational training workshop entitled, “Happiness: How Positive Psychology Changes Your Lives”, we learned that research shows that practicing the art of gratitude has a huge impact on reducing depression and anxiety. We were encouraged to do the following three Gratitude exercises and then assist our clients do the same. I share them with you today.
Exercise 1: Pick a person you know within driving distance and write a 1 – 2 page letter of appreciation to that person. List the things that were helpful to you or assisted you in some way for which you are grateful. Increase its importance by framing or laminating it. Call the person, go visit and read it to them. Then leave it with them.
Exercise 2: Jot down 3 things that happened within the past 24 hours that you feel good about and would like to see continue. Then write down one or two things you did that made you feel good, right, ethical or noble and anything else that you approve of.
Exercise 3: This gratitude exercise is for the challenges that we receive. Jot down something that upset you. Now reframe the situation by brainstorming all the ways that this challenge might be a blessing in disguise. How can you turn it to your advantage? What good can come from this?
Start a Blessings or Gratitude Diary
Every day record 3 to 5 things that you liked.
- What happened?
- Why did it happen?
- What did I do right?
- Why did I do that?
Then write about one thing that you didn’t like and ask yourself,
- How could I turn that around and make it a blessing in disguise?
- How could this be a lesson that is helpful.
“I will praise the name of God with song, And shall magnify Him with thanksgiving.”
It isn’t just the Bible that teaches us to be thankful and recognize our blessings, but also the science that God has given us. We are able to measure the results of gratitude mentally, physically and spiritually.
For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, For love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
When I was mourning the loss of my husband, I started making a list of all the blessings that God was giving me each day. Finding those things of gratitude helped me heal.
What am I thankful and grateful for today? Here is just a partial list.
I am thankful
- For God who loves us so much He sent His Son to die for us
- For my family who I love very much
- For loyal friends that are there for me when I need help
- For the ability to be a friend and help others in the time of their need
- For the capability to seek and accomplish meaningful and worthwhile work
- For the discretion to choose love instead of hate
- For the many, many freedoms I have living in this country
This Thanksgiving, I not only want to thank God for all the things for which I am grateful for, but I also want to pray for those who struggle:
O God, when I have food, help me to remember the hungry; When I have work, help me to remember the jobless; When I have a home, help me to remember those who have no home at all; When I am without pain, help me to remember those who suffer, And remembering, help me to destroy my complacency; bestir my compassion, and be concerned enough to help; By word and deed, those who cry out for what we take for granted. Amen.
-Samuel F. Pugh
Have a very Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving
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