Incorporating Gratitude into Your Thanksgiving Season
When Joe Gardner, a fictional character in the Disney movie, ‘Soul’, finally achieves his biggest life goals, he is left feeling a little empty. He doesn’t understand why he doesn’t feel 100% satisfied, and why he doesn’t feel eternal happiness. This sounds familiar to many of us, to reach a big life goal and it does not turn out to be as satisfying as we thought it would be. What Joe Gardner goes on to discover is that living life with gratitude and finding joy in the little things can help make life more satisfying and meaningful.
So how do we apply this to our own real lives? Gratitude can sound complex and intimidating, how are we supposed to know what gratitude feels like and how to use it? That’s part of the beauty of it. One tradition my family does at Thanksgiving dinner is saying one thing we are thankful for. Often we pick broad subjects, such as ‘family’ or ‘friends’ and other times we pick specific pleasures in life, such as ‘Mom’s sweet potato casserole’. Other ways to express gratitude may include journaling, using a gratitude rock or going on a gratitude walk.
Journaling in general is a wonderful thing to do that can help relieve stress and anxiety and help you organize your thoughts. You can express gratitude through journaling by making lists of things you are grateful for in different categories. For example, you could write a list of three things you are grateful for that you can eat, three things you are grateful for this fall, three things you are grateful for in school, and so on.
A gratitude rock is exercise that uses a rock that is smooth or textured and easy to hold that can fit in your pocket or in your bag. Put this rock in a place where you will see it often. Every time you touch or see this rock, you should name at least one thing in that situation that you are grateful for. This could be the feeling of sunshine on your face or the warmth of a coffee on a cold morning. When you put the rock back at night, reflect on something that you are grateful for that happened that day as well.
Walking can be therapeutic in itself; it gives you the opportunity to slow down and think and to exercise at a pace that increases endorphins and energy levels. Using a walk as an opportunity to express gratitude can help you feel happier and more present in the moment. When you go on a gratitude walk, try to be present and experience the smells, sensations, sounds and sights of your surroundings. Does a certain kind of leaf crunch when you step on it? Or can you smell garlic when you walk by a particular restaurant? Use this opportunity to enjoy every dimension of your walk, in the long run you will remember it better and it will be a comforting place to find peace.
So, just like Joe Gardner finds out in the movie ‘Soul’, you can find satisfaction and pleasure in your life if you take the time to focus on the little things, like the taste of pecan pie, or the beauty of autumn leaves falling in the wind like confetti.
Using gratitude as a tool in addition to seeing a counselor can help tremendously as well. To reach out to one of our counselors, please email us or call 217-203-2008