by Diana Raab, Ph.D.
Ever since my childhood, Thanksgiving has been my very favorite national holiday. I like it because it’s a good reason for families to get together—free from materialistic motivations such as gift-giving—and more important, it’s an ideal time to offer thanks and express gratitude.
We can express gratitude verbally to others, but we can also do so using the written word. Writing down what we’re thankful for has many benefits. It’s a way to organize and integrate our thoughts, and it’s also a way to put our thanks into the context of everything else going on in our lives. What’s important to remember is that there’s no right or wrong way to do gratitude journaling, nor is there an art to it. It’s simply about whatever feels right and comfortable to you.
One thing is clear, which is that there’s so much to give thanks for. And, studies have shown that those who express gratitude experience a higher degree of happiness than those who don’t.
Here are seven ways to incorporate gratitude into your writing this month:
- Make a list of what you’re thankful for. Studies have shown that it’s best to choose one of those items on the list and write about it in greater detail. Robert Emmons, of the University of California, San Diego, is a leading expert on the science of gratitude. He says that when making your gratitude list, think of each item as a gift—whether it’s a person, an experience, or something materialistic.
- Write about one person in your life whom you’re most grateful for. Explain how this individual came into your life, his/her role, and what it is about this person you’re most grateful for.
- Write a letter to one or more individuals whom you want to thank for something in particular. Explain exactly why you appreciate them and what you’ve learned from them. You don’t have to mail the letter if you don’t want to, but you certainly can if you feel inclined.
- Write a letter to yourself expressing why you’re thankful for you. You can begin by expressing thanks for being alive, and also include certain aspects of your life and health that you’re grateful for.
- Write down the skills and accomplishments you’re grateful for. Maybe it’s that you’re simply able to read, or even that you’re able to go out and buy yourself a gratitude journal.
- Make a list of things or situations that bother you, and consider thinking about them in a positive light. How might you do that?
- During this holiday season, consider sending out personalized thank-you cards whenever you receive a gift or when someone has made a generous gesture.
In closing, I’d like to share this poem in honor of Thanksgiving:
I’m Thankful for You
by Joanna Fuchs
Thanksgiving is the appointed time
for focusing on the good in our lives.
In each of our days,
we can find small blessings,
but too often we overlook them,
choosing instead to spend our time
paying attention to problems.
We give our energy
to those who cause us trouble
instead of those who bring peace.
let’s be on the lookout
for the bits of pleasure in each hour,
and appreciate the people who
bring love and light to everyone
who is blessed to know them.
You are one of those people.
I’m thankful for you.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Diana Raab, Ph.D. is a memoirist, poet, blogger, essayist, educator and facilitates workshops in writing for healing and transformation. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology with a concentration in Transpersonal Psychology, and a research focus on the healing and transformative powers of memoir writing.