Today, we sculpt roast turkey and nestle helpings of mashed potatoes between creamed corn and butternut squash.
We loosen our belts a notch or two to make room for a second sliver of pumpkin pie.
This extraordinary day is Thanksgiving, an iconic holiday which stirs up images of wafting, tantalizing scents and colorful, mouth-watering comfort food.
Amidst the bounty and feasting, though, we must not forget the truly extraordinary purpose of the day.
A Reminder to Appreciate Always
Today, we gather with loved ones. We delight in sharing savory meals with the cheerful company of family.
We remember our roots, and we take time to be grateful.
Thanksgiving exists to remind us of all the ways in which we are fortunate, and of all that we take for granted.
It’s here to wake us up, to make us stop for a moment and gaze at the world around us in reverence.
On this day, people across the country are encouraged to unite—to ponder collectively the brighter things in life.
And yet, I can’t help but feel as if Thanksgiving sends the wrong message to many.
If it takes a government-sanctioned vacation day and a food coma-inducing inhalation of cooked bird to remind some of us to feel blessed, where does that leave us for the other 364 days of the year?
When gratitude becomes institutionalized, does it cease to be a part of our daily lives?
Too often, I’m afraid it does.
Thanksgiving shouldn’t be the lone day of the year where we remember to appreciate. It should be a widespread reminder to take time each day and wonder at our riches.
It should instill in us a sense of the boundless potential for love, joy, warmth, hope, and kindness in the world.
A sense not merely to be felt on this day alone, but one which we carry forward with us throughout the year.
Simpler to Say, Than to Do
I’ll be the first to declare that this is no easy task.
So many of us are ensnared within the clutches of our commitments and routines.
We’re pulled from bed each morning by the magnet of responsibility and drift, ghost-like, through our hours.
I’ve been there. For weeks at a time, I’ve felt simultaneously lost and trapped, futile and worthless.
It can become next to impossible, in this foggy cycle, to kindle within ourselves real and regular appreciation.
Yet, we must, if we are to find contentment.
In all that we do, we should first and foremost bear in mind the blessings that have allowed us this day.
We need often to reflect fondly upon the women and men who have died for our freedom, the loved ones who have sacrificed for our opportunity, the people we’re lucky to call our friends, and the qualities and quirks that make each of us, well, us.
And if our current routine infects us with an unappreciative attitude, it becomes our duty to pursue the interests and aspirations that transform our ordinary days into daily Thanksgivings.
Ways to be Extra Grateful This Thanksgiving, and Every Day
1. Write it down.
Make a list of everything you can think of to be thankful for. Your family, friends, world, education, opportunities, talents, personality, passion, etc.
Write it all out and reflect upon how significant it actually is. I do this periodically, and it provides clarity.
2. Remember the less fortunate.
It’s much more difficult to bemoan our situations when we consider those around the world whose lives are taking place amidst poverty, war, genocide, and natural disasters.
Take it a step further and do something to better someone else’s life. Finding time to serve, volunteer, and improve the world in small ways remedies self-centered pessimism.
3. First thing in the morning.
A friend of mine told me that she whispers “thank-you” each morning as she steps out of bed. I think this is a practice we can all learn from.
Feeling appreciative throughout the day has much to do with how we orient ourselves toward gratitude each morning. Whether through writing, prayer, or other means, find a way to say thanks first thing.
4. Make a change.
Sometimes, life has been begging us to make a change, to quit our jobs, or to take a chance for quite some time, but we’re too glazed over to listen.
If your typical day feel like a spirit-crushing gauntlet of the same old rigmarole, it’s likely time to freshen things up. Changing habits and routines re-awakens our vitality and spontaneity.
5. Take a walk.
Or a run, if you’re feeling ambitious. Nourishing our body with physical action and exercise is one of the most tried and true methods for maintaining a Thanksgiving mindset.
Pause and smell the daffodils. Climb a tree. Watch a sunset. Ski down a mountain. You get the idea. Get outdoors, and expose yourself to Mother Nature.
Let her ordered complexity and subtle brilliance inspire your artistic sensibilities. When we notice the mysterious beauty surrounding us, we more easily slip into an appreciative state.
7. Say it aloud.
Today, and often, tell the people in your life that you love them and are thankful for them. Tell yourself too.
Saying things aloud powerfully affirms them, and life is too brief and fragile to not feel daily a bond of love with ourselves and with others.
8. Take the initiative.
Much of the time, it rests on our shoulders to seek out inspiration and to consider all that we should be grateful for. Take the initiative to find it, every day.
Today and Beyond
If you remember one thing from this post, please remember the importance of making every day a Thanksgiving.
This should be our goal, after all. We must strive toward living a life in which every day is treated as a gift.
To do this, we must aim to destroy our selfish feeling and to channel the peace and love of our communities—our relatives, our friends, and also our larger human family.
In closing, I want each of you to know how thankful I am for you. Thank-you for being my family, friends, and patrons, for supporting my work, and for seeing a light in me when I struggle to see it myself.
It means more to me than I can express within the limitations of these words. Thank-you so much, and I wish all of you a splendid Thanksgiving.
“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual…O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.”
― Henry David Thoreau