Giving thanks almost feels like a cliche this time of year. But giving thanks, or expressing gratitude, even when one doesn't feel especially thankful, has been shown to have positive effects. When we take the time to 'recognize the good' (in Hebrew, hakarat hatov), especially on a regular basis, we find ourselves feeling calmer, less anxious, less resentful, happier, more generous, and more joyful.
Some people have a tradition of expressing gratitude at Thanksgiving or around the Shabbat table every Friday night. Some people give thanks as part of their evening prayers. But we don't have to wait for these designated times to express gratitude. Opportunities present themselves multiple times over the course of the day; we just have to make the time to recognize and acknowledge them.
In Pennsylvania, I noticed a creek that reminded me of where I grew up. That made me nostalgic . . . and thankful for the memories. (See the video below to understand why.) A friend sent me a link of a cashier helping an elderly gentleman count out his quarters in a Wal-Mart checkout line. Even though I don't know her, I'm grateful that that clerk was there in that moment for that man, instead of someone else who might have had less patience.
So here's the challenge. 'Recognize the good' at least once every day between now and Thanksgiving and express your gratitude in front of your children. Use specific language so they understand why a moment is a moment deserving of gratitude. Help them see the beauty and kindness that exists in our world. It really is everywhere.
I am grateful to one of the directors at my retreat for sharing this idea with the group. Happy Thanksgiving!