10 ways to practice gratitude this Thanksgiving

Story by Brian Clymer

With Thanksgiving only a few short weeks away, many people are planning their meals– the turkey, the cranberry sauce, the stuffing, and the desserts – and making their invitation lists. Each year, Americans celebrate this holiday created for giving thanks, but a year-round focus on gratitude is one of the best ways to emphasize positive mental health and well-being.Thankfulness and Gratitude graphic

To be clear about what we are speaking, thankfulness is the ability to be appreciative for a benefit you have.  Gratitude is similar, but there is a slight difference; gratitude is one’s readiness to reciprocate kindness.  It may seem a bit odd to remind others to be thankful for what they have, but in a world that is moving ever forward, we often do not take the time to stop and appreciate everything that we have been given and everything that we have earned.  Know that thankfulness can begin with a simple “thank you,” but gratitude can be a bit harder to put into action.

Below, let these ideas for showing gratitude be just a catalyst for a new mindset around this holiday season and beyond.  It is not about what gifts you receive, or what you eat. The season is about how you help contribute to the good that is in this world.

  1. Write an inspirational or grateful message on a Post-It note and leave it randomly somewhere that will be found (eventually). Places to hide it could be on the back of a medicine cabinet door for your partner/roommate, the drawer of a co-worker’s desk, or on the door of a stranger’s car.
  2. When you meet eyes with a stranger, try smiling instead of immediately staring at the ground or your phone – you’d be surprised how much a smile can cheer someone up, including yourself!
  3. Call, E-mail, or write a hand-written letter to the 3 most important people in your life to tell them how they have uniquely impacted your life.
  4. Go through your closet and find coats and sweaters that you do not wear anymore. Keep a few of them in your car with you and if you encounter someone in need, give it to them.
  5. Share one of your favorite experiences with a loved one (watching the sunset, listening to a song, or reading that book that changed your life). Show them how much they mean to you by sharing one of your most inspirational experiences with them.
  6. Sit and just listen to someone that is having a difficult day – whether you know them or not!
  7. Volunteer your time, or make an anonymous donation, to a local charity.
  8. Give someone you hardly know (a server or Uber driver) a genuine compliment.
  9. Borrow a book from a loved one. Once you finish reading it, sit with them over coffee, lunch, or drinks to talk about the book and why they recommended it to you.  Get to know their world, their truth.
  10. Know that the world becomes a better place by the tiny gestures we make to those in our lives whether they are strangers or close friends. Be that light in the darkness and brighten someone’s day.

Be creative!  These are only a few ideas of how to brighten your day and the days of others.  In addition to creating happiness around you, expressing gratitude and thankfulness has research-proven benefits to your health.  Expressing gratitude can increase psychological health by lessening thoughts of frustration, regret, or resentment, increase empathy and lessen aggression, improve quality of sleep, and improve self-esteem.  The benefits extend farther than an immediate happiness and can better your life.  So, get on out there and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, pay it forward.

Brian Clymer is a second year graduate student in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program. Born and raised in northern Illinois, Brian has been living in Fort Collins, CO for a total of 5 years.  Though a Midwesterner by heart, Colorado has quickly become a gorgeous new home for Brian.  He enjoys curling up with a good book and hot cocoa instead of huge parties and enjoys the company of his closest friends.  His interests are all-encompassing, considering himself a Renaissance man, Brian enjoys: board/video/card games, sports (soccer, baseball, and bowling), cooking, poetry, biking, making hemp jewelry, and walking in the autumn weather.  Some of Brian’s favorites are: food – fish (especially red snapper); TV show – Game of Thrones; movie – Gladiator; book – The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe.

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