Potential unpopular opinion here, but I’m not the biggest fan of Thanksgiving. As someone who is in recovery for an eating disorder history and who is mostly vegetarian, the food-focused holiday has always been challenging for me. Even when I have healthy side options or the most delicious tofurkey, I often end the day feeling uncomfortably full and wanting to go to sleep early.
With that said, there are parts of Thanksgiving that I deeply appreciate. I really enjoy the thanks-giving side of the day. I love going around the table and sharing what we are grateful for. I love that everyone seems extra tuned in to making sure they say “thank you” to one another.
But another potentially unpopular opinion here: I’m not sure that we need a specific holiday to be grateful.
What if thanks-giving could be practiced any day, under any circumstances? What if it could be practiced without food and not just around a turkey? What if it could be done alone and not just in a group? What if it could be done silently in our head and not just through overt action?
Well, scientific research confirms that the act of giving thanks may be too powerful to be limited to a single day per year. It seems that we can, and should, make this a daily ritual!
Science-Backed Benefits of Gratitude:
- Increased happiness
- Improved mood and well-being
- Improved sleep
- Increased immunity
- Improved resilience
- Stronger relationships
Here are 5 easy ways to start a gratitude practice this holiday season or ANY time!
- Overt thank-yous: Say “thank you” to others as often as you can. A little thanks goes a long way, especially at home. Not only do our young children learn from our example, but thanking our partners or family members is an easy and outward way to show them that we are grateful for all that they do.
- Turn your negative thoughts into positive ones: In yoga there is a thought-shifting practice that is focused on turning negative thoughts into positive ones. It challenges us to find the silver lining in most moments. For example, I can shift my negative thoughts around the food part of Thanksgiving and instead focus on the time I get to spend with my family. Or we can shift focusing on the stresses of holiday travel to the outcome of getting to see those we love.
- The “yes/and” practice: Now just because we are cultivating gratitude does not mean we are negating our other feelings. There is something called toxic positivity happening a lot in wellness circles, which is when people try to override their negative emotions, assuming we’re meant to be upbeat and happy all the time. The yes/and practice allows us to embrace the difficult and the beautiful at the same time. It’s a way to honor both truths at once.
For example, you can have the following seemingly disparate thoughts: Yes, we are blessed to have clean food on our table, and the food focus can still be triggering. Yes, I love being with family, and I need some time to myself. Yes, I love making the holidays special, and I get overwhelmed by the pressure of it all. The key is learning how to honor and appreciate all aspects of your experience.
- Keep a daily gratitude journal: Keeping a journal of any kind can sound daunting. Especially when you’re balancing running a home and work responsibilities, but the beauty of gratitude journals is that you don’t have to write an epic or a book-length chapter every single entry. You can simply write five things you are grateful for. Or even one! You can write it as bullet points or a whole paragraph. It can be kept on your phone or handwritten. Do what works best for you!
- Write a gratitude letter…to yourself: In many of the studies exploring gratitude, participants were asked to write a gratitude letter to someone in their lives. The benefits of this practice are so great that The New York Times recently wrote an article entitled “How to Write a Gratitude Letter.” You may have an idea of a few people you want to write a letter to, but could you imagine writing yourself the letter? How often do we take the time to express gratitude to ourselves? It may seem uncomfortable at first, or it may even feel like you are speaking to someone else, but in time this exercise reminds us that we are as deserving of our thanks as everyone else in our lives.
Try one or all of these this Thanksgiving season and maybe they will become a daily practice. Just remember to do what works for you and what feels sustainable!
By the way, we here at Shaklee are so grateful for YOU. Happy Holidays!
Sarah Ezrin is a freelance writer, world-renowned yoga educator, popular Instagram influencer, and mama based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her willingness to be unabashedly honest and vulnerable along with her innate wisdom make her writing, yoga classes, and social media great sources of healing and inner peace for many people. Sarah is changing the world, teaching self-love one person at a time. For more information please visit her website www.sarahezrinyoga.com.