DEAR READERS: I want to wish you all a happy Thanksgiving! For weeks, American families have been preparing for this big day, when typically they come together to break bread and enjoy one another's company.
Years ago when this celebration took root, it represented gratitude for the harvest that farmers had grown and for the hard work it took for everyone to get to where they were at that moment. In the early days of our country, new Americans understood that you can take nothing for granted and that it is wise to be thankful for things both large and infinitesimally small.
I believe we are in a similar place today in our country. We have had so much unrest due to weather, the economy, the political machinations leading up to the presidential election and daily family ins and outs. For many of us, times have been challenging. When faced with ongoing challenge, people can fall into stress behavior without even realizing it. They can become short-tempered with the people they care about the most, dismissive and even mean.
A great antidote to slipping into that negative behavior is the age-old practice of counting your blessings -- literally. Instead of wallowing in negativity, at the moment you notice you may be feeling a little down, start writing a list. Write down the things that bring you joy -- like having a roof over your head (if you do), or the nice lady in your neighborhood who speaks sunnily to you every day, or the neighbor who always holds the door open when you enter your apartment building. If you are a parent, express your gratitude for a specific thing that you appreciate about your children, even if they can sometimes be difficult. Be grateful for your education; your job, even if it's not ideal; your warm coat, regardless of whether it is weathered; and so on.
I find that writing a gratitude list helps me to be more aware of the blessings in my life. If you will be spending time with family members, you may want to create a combined gratitude list, where everyone assembled lists things for which they can be grateful. This practice may help unearth wonderful stories about the past and present that may serve to heal old wounds or at least pass the time in a positive way. Consider having someone, possibly a teenager, videotape the storytelling so that you can create your own harvest of blessings that will be a keepsake for many Thanksgivings to come.
If you are alive, you have something to be grateful for. Be tender with yourself and your loved ones as you travel through your memory to claim the treasures that define your life. Regardless of what is tough for you now, bask in the knowledge that your life is valuable. Thanks to writing down these details about your life, you concretely know why.