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E-motion: Thanksgiving Living

Weirdest thing...a turkey running down Central Avenue the week before Thanksgiving!

He was running for his life — and with good reason! Turkeys shouldn’t be seen around town the week before Thanksgiving. That is, unless they want to be served up as gourmet guests of honor.

But there he was in proud gobble regalia, running along Central Avenue — yes, Central Avenue — dodging traffic. He looked so out of place, yet somehow so exactly in place near the holiday that features this strange bird as a centerpiece. 

I drove on with a big smile plastered on my face. That audacious turkey brightened my whole day. 

I really like the Thanksgiving holiday, but not because of eating turkey. What I like is the focus on being thankful and admitting it out loud. Taking stock and being thankful; that’s really what the whole holiday is about, isn’t it? 

We call it Thanksgiving  Day, but I like to think of it as a way to live.  And live well.

There’s a Facebook post going around that’s pretty intriguing. It says, "What if you woke up today with only the things you gave thanks for yesterday?" I hear it got people worried. Now, it seems to me that point of that question isn’t to create anxiety about making sure your "Give Thanks Checklist" is comprehensive enough. Rather, I think it’s more a gentle prodding to realize our lives can be so full of doing this and doing that, that, well, we simply forget to stop and be thankful. 

I like how President Obama reminded us to be thankful in his Thanksgiving Proclamation last year.

As Americans gather for the time-honored Thanksgiving Day meal, let us rejoice in the abundance that graces our tables, in the simple gifts that mark our days, in the loved ones who enrich our lives and in the gifts of a gracious God. Let us recall that our forebears met their challenges with hope and an unfailing spirit, and let us resolve to do the same.

So, when’s the last time you stopped to think about the abundance in your life?  I know, I know, you’re busy! Soccer schedules, Thanksgiving menus, unfinished homework, kid’s appointments and more press relentlessly on our time. But I’m really asking is when was the last time you recalled how blessed you are? Did you know it’s really worth doing?

Here’s why. People who live with thankful attitudes have better lives. Yes, there are actually gratitude researchers who study this sort of thing. They’ve proven that people who cultivate gratitude end up with lots of bonuses. Bonuses like, better overall health, more energy, stronger marriages, better sleep and even higher incomes. The studies suggest that the regular cultivation of gratitude and appreciation has multiple psychological and physical benefits. Aren’t these all things you’d like to have? 

You don’t have to have a farm background to cultivate more gratitude in your life. Everyone can do it, even kids. Here’s some simple ways Dr. Robert Emmons, one of those gratitude researchers, suggests to infuse more gratitude into your daily life:

  • Make a commitment to do it. Renew the commitment each day.
  • Develop a language of gratitude rather than a language of complaint. 
  • Keep your eyes and ears open to the small gifts in daily life; notice the sunset or full moon, enjoy the smile of a young child, the smell of coffee, the changing colors of fall.
  • Focus on good things, especially the good things others do for us that show love and help us realize how connected we all are.
  • Be someone who does grateful actions. Thank people often. Help others.  Practice those random acts of kindness whenever you see an opportunity.  Small ways really add up.
  • Notice the things that you are thankful for and the gifts that come your way, large and small. Keeping track of them in a journal and talking about them with others is a great idea. 

I like Dr. Emmons's suggestions. I’m going to work on them myself. I suggest you give a few of them a try as well.

And here’s one more idea you can use when you gather with family and friends on Thanksgiving Day.

Get one of those ears of decorative corn and break off some of the kernels. Put three pieces by each place setting at your thanksgiving table. And then, after you’ve passed around the scrumptious plates of food and taken a few bites, invite people to hold their kernels and think of three things they are especially thankful for this year, large or small. Invite them to even more boldly share what those things are out loud. Sure, it’s a bit corny to do, but try it. I think you’ll find the sharing tender and succulent, just like the turkey. 

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