You know how you spend days, possibly even weeks, planning out and preparing a big holiday meal, only to have it disappear within hours? Even if you end up with leftovers, you’re lucky to get an extra meal of two out of them, right?
What if I told you there is a recipe you can make way ahead of time, and that people will actually add pieces to, rather than taking them away? In other words, it would multiply, rather than simply disappearing. No trip to the supermarket or farmer’s market required.
I’ll give you a couple of hints: it’s the big picture that often gets lost in the midst of all those Thanksgiving to-do and shopping lists. It’s a prescription for “thanks” and “giving” that’s easy to digest, and will last throughout the year, but that often gets buried under all those heaping plates of food.
It’s gratitude, plain and simple! You can bring it to life this month, whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not. All you need is an empty box (a tissue box is easiest, since it already has an opening at the top), a small notebook for each family member, and some small slips of paper and pens.
Ingredient 1: Gratitude Journal – Get it down on paper, but not to share (unless you want to).
Each family member can personalize a small notebook. Each night, s/he jots down things s/he is grateful for. It could include serious, major things, or brief moments, funny words, actions, thoughts, or even gestures, that made you feel good. As no one else needs to see the journal, you could include anything! For those who aren’t willing or able to write, artwork and/or videos can be used instead. Have fun with it!
Ingredient 2: Box of Thanks – Share the best of what’s in your journal with your family!
Take an empty box and make a slit at the top so each family member can anonymously put in small slips of paper that reveal individual items from his or her gratitude journal. If it’s a video or piece of artwork, the slip of paper can indicate that one was made, and the family member should have it handy to show if called upon to do so on Thanksgiving Day. S/he can pick and choose what gets shared and what doesn’t.
Please note that these ingredients work best together, when done on a daily basis for at least a week before the actual day they will be shared. If you prefer to use only one of them, that’s okay too. Feel free to get creative, and customize the activity to meet your own family’s preferences.
On Thanksgiving Day, or during a December holiday, each family member can take turns picking random slips of paper from the box and reading it. People can guess who wrote it, or not. The more specific people are with what they write, the more fun, interesting, and memorable the activity will be.
The journals and box can be saved and looked back upon in later years, kind of like a time capsule, if you wish. OR, you could keep the gratitude journal piece going all year. It’s a great habit, and a simple way to alleviate stress, to end every day with a warm, positive thought. Somehow, writing things down makes them all the more real.
The best part of this activity is that it gets your child thinking, writing, and creating happy thoughts. It can keep her busy while you go off and work on other tasks, but in the end, it’ll bring your family closer. In a gimme gimme world, it’s a great time to refocus the conversation on gratitude, especially with the other holidays that are coming up!
Really, though, couldn’t we all use a reminder to focus on the positive? As the weather gets colder, it’s even more important to think warm thoughts. After all, food is not the only form of nourishment. Sometimes, it’s our thoughts that get in the way of us leading our healthiest, happiest lives.
So this holiday season, bring on the great food, while at the same time trying to take a load off your plate! When we feed our minds with gratitude, the happier and healthier we all will be.