What are you thankful for?

This week, we kick off the holiday season with Thanksgiving.  While we all know what Thanksgiving is about, do we really take time to understand that this is one of the best feel-good times of the year?  Thanksgiving is dedicated to being thankful for what we have in life.  This includes ourselves, our significant others, our families, our friends, our health, our homes, our jobs, our love of guitar and music – literally everything that we’ve come to know, enjoy and count on in life.  Unfortunately, what we frequently do is take everything around us for granted.  When we do this, we fail to appreciate how lucky we all really are.  If we understand everything we should be grateful for – not just on Thanksgiving – but every day, we become happier because we realize how fortunate we are. 

Thanksgiving has its roots in old English tradition beginning with the English Reformation in the 1500s.  This tradition was brought to our shores by the Pilgrims and Puritans who immigrated to the US from England in the early 1600s.  For these people, Thanksgivings were not annual events as they are today, but were observed throughout the year when special events or blessings occurred.  In this case, the first Thanksgiving in the US was celebrated by the bountiful harvest that the Pilgrims had during that fall setting them up favorably for the upcoming difficult winter.  This soon became a tradition and has been followed for hundreds of years ever since.

Keeping this concept in mind, we need to continually - and not just on Thanksgiving - take stock of the blessings that we have as individuals.  As you read this, take a moment and think of all of the things that you are thankful for in your life.  What are they?  Are they friends, family, your significant other, your health, your home, your ability to play the guitar, your dog, your cat, the weather?  It could be anything really, as long as you realize that it is a personal blessing for yourself.  As you begin to think about it, you realize that the list can go on and on.  Furthermore, when you come to understand all of the things in life you are grateful for, you know that you are indeed a pretty lucky person, making you feel happy and fortunate.

Here are two great exercises (plus a bonus Thanksgiving exercise!) that we can use that works wonders throughout the year.

Get a “gratitude rock.”  This is a wonderful and easy thing to do that is a lot of fun.  These rocks also make great gifts (hint:  holiday gift giving tip!).  So what is a gratitude rock?  This is simply a rock (or it could be anything really) that you keep with you in your pocket.  When your hand touches it or you pick it up off of the dresser when you’re getting ready in the morning, take a moment to think of what you are grateful for.  As you start to list one thing after another, you will come to realize how fortunate you are in life and will instantly feel better. 
So, how do you get a gratitude rock?  This one is also easy.  Simply pick up any little rock that you like from outside or locate a durable item in your home that you can easily put in your pocket.  You now have a gratitude rock and are ready to feel grateful!

Make a thankful list.  Take a couple minutes, a pen or pencil, and a piece of paper and start writing down all of the things you are grateful and thankful for.  You may have trouble at first thinking of things, but once you start going, you will find a whole long list of things to be thankful for.  You will feel better instantly.  And, if you want to take it a step further, recite the list to a loved one.  They’ll love that you did.  If they want, have them create one too and compare lists.  You will come to realize that you have a lot in common.   Then take your list and post it on your refrigerator where you can periodically see it.

Bonus exercise:  Thanksgiving blessing.  Using the list exercise above, have every guest make a list and recite it at the table during the blessing.  If people don’t want to do a list, simply ask each of them what they are thankful for.  Then go around the table so everyone has their chance.  This can make a Thanksgiving dinner more meaningful than simply just passing around the turkey, stuffing and gravy.  It’s great to hear what everyone is thankful for and usually there are a couple of funny ones that people share, plus there can be some heartfelt moments, too.  Make this a new tradition with your family!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there from all of us here at RCGS!  Safe travels everyone!

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