November 2021 marks the perfect time to be thankful for health, family and friends. For many, this year’s holiday celebrations are going to look a lot different than last year’s, when not everyone was able to come together safely. This could mean it’s going to be a bit louder than usual at the dinner table, with family members finding they have a lot of lost time to make up for, and a lot of additional reasons to express their gratitude.
Every year, the moment the turkey exits the oven, my grandparents have us go around the dinner table and profess things we are thankful for. Despite knowing this, I always find myself panicking over what to say. What am I grateful for? I suppose the basics –– family, books, shelter, food, friends. But these aren’t really basics at all, are they? I mean, not everyone has access to these things at the rate that I do, and some people don’t have access to them at all. That is why this activity is worthwhile –– even as I’m sitting at what is practically a buffet table with a plate as empty as my stomach. It puts things into perspective, and helps me to remember that life is actually not so bad.
According to Harvard Health, people who regularly give thanks are generally happier. One way to reflectively give thanks is through writing, which can be a highly therapeutic activity in itself. What follow are writing-based activities designed to help you cultivate your own sense of gratitude, that you may never find yourself at a loss for words at the Thanksgiving dinner table.
1. Write people thank-you letters.
Can you think of someone who, big or small, has made some kind of positive impact on your life? A parent who you feel completely indebted to, or a coworker who stayed later once to help you close up shop? Consider drafting a thank-you letter, email or sticky note for this person, in which you thank them for the role they play(ed) in your life. Along with making you a happier person, this activity can help improve your relationship with the recipient. Thank-you letters can double as intimate and cost-effective Christmas and birthday presents. But, since these activities are ultimately meant for you, they also never have to see the light of day.
2. Keep a daily gratitude journal.
As a writer (typist may be more fitting), I have dozens of untouched or partially used journals that I bought solely for their edgy appearance. This activity encourages you to fill such journals with gratitude statements on a regular basis. Pick a time of day when you are most relaxed (for me it’s during the evening), and try to write down as many things as possible that you are thankful for. Rough day? Maybe aim for three. When I don’t know what to write, I simply look around and consider the things I am grateful for in my immediate environment. Right now, for example, I might write statements like…
I am thankful for the fresh air flowing in through my open window.
I am thankful for the (still alive!) orchid peeking over my laptop screen.
I am thankful for the warm blanket to my right.
This strategy can assist you in looking at the world differently. The people, places and objects around you are not simply existing –– they are now worthy of thanks.
3. Write gratitude statements about the things you want.
This activity deals with spiritual manifestation –– believing yourself worthy of receiving the things you want in life, and then receiving them. It can be useful in refining your vision of the future, as well as helping you accept where you are currently. Simply get out a journal or piece of paper, and write gratitude statements about things you want, but don’t yet have. You can something like I am thankful for getting the promotion at work or you can thank God or the universe (it’s truly up to individual expression) for your desire, saying, Thank you for helping me get the promotion at work. Then, you can hold on to your gratitude statements and see if your desires come to fruition in days to come.
I wish you the best of luck in your thanks-giving endeavors! Perhaps, if you’re into writing, these activities will help ease you into a place where you can produce meaningful writing. A warm-up, if you will. As always, check out the Cardinal Rule Press website for children’s books that encourage positive character traits –– including gratitude –– in children. And, however you choose to celebrate this time of year, I hope you thoroughly enjoy.
A senior in the University of Michigan-Flint’s Secondary English Teacher’s Certificate Program, Lauren is an aspiring writer and English educator. Along with interning at Cardinal Rule Press, Lauren has worked for UM-Flint’s Writing Center and student newspaper. She enjoys running, being outside, and (naturally) reading in her spare time.