“It is not happy people who are thankful, it is thankful people who are happy” -Author unknown

This Thursday we will all sit down at our dining room tables and celebrate the best of the American holidays; Thanksgiving. I am not too fussed over which Native American tribe broke bread with the pilgrims, or what was on the first Thanksgiving table, I am however, absolutely in love with the true meaning of the holiday and it’s all in the name.

My Family’s Thanksgiving Traditions

My mother had a motto when it came to celebrating Turkey day “No one is left out.” Whether it was a neighbour who didn’t have any family or friends to celebrate with or co-workers who couldn’t make it home for the holidays, my mother always extended the invitation to our table.

Growing up, we didn’t have much. More than once I did my homework by the light of the apartment building hallway, when our electricity bill couldn’t be paid. Regardless of our modest life, my mother instilled in my brother and I a powerful message, what we had we would be thankful for and we would share it with others.

I went to vet school an ocean away from my relatives, and my friends in London became my new family; a family of friends. When it came to Thanksgiving our potluck celebrations, crowded around in our tiny student accommodation kitchen, embodied the essence of the holiday. No frills, no fancy china and silverware, just good food, even better people, and a room overflowing with love. We started a tradition of going around the table and one by one stating aloud what we were thankful for before we started in our feast.

The Power of Three Weeks

The experts say, that it takes 21 days to form a habit. That if you power through and make a point to perform the habit you wish to instil in your life everyday for three weeks, it will become second nature. Every morning when I wake up and every night before I go to sleep I bring to mind three gratitudes. Three things I am thankful for in my life. They can be as profound as; I am thankful for the love of my husband, my soulmate, my best friend, and the person who helps me be the best me I can be. Or they can be as simple as; I am thankful for the extra hour of sleep my baby let me have this morning. Either way, the effect is the same.

“It is not happy people who are thankful, it is thankful people who are happy” -Author unknown

By making a point to focus on all the good already present in our lives we cultivate positivity and increase our happiness. The best part is; the elements in your life that make you happy are already there, you don’t need to radically change anything, you merely need to focus and be grateful for what you already have.

One Step Further; Seeing the Good in the Bad

The next step in living a life more focused on gratitude is to try to see the positive in every situation. Over dinner my husband and I play a little game called “best, worst, and tomorrow.” The object of the game is basically to promote conversation at the dinner table, and to share about our days. You share the best and worst part of your days and what you are looking forward to tomorrow. But rather than start a negativity spiral, in which we simply complain about the worst part of our days, we try to find a lesson that can be learned, or some aspect of the situation which was beneficial. For instance, the other day a woman helping me with a return at the customer services department at a store was very rude and difficult to interact with. Rather than shoot negativity back at her, I took the opportunity to challenge my use of the ‘killing them with kindness’ approach. Also, later at the dinner table I reflected on how I would use her poor people skills as a lesson to myself, that even if I am having a bad day, I should avoid taking it out on other people, then where does the negativity end? It would become like a infectious disease we spread from person to person, until the whole world is sick with “meanness.”

Yet another example is when my husband and drove the 14 hours last Spring from our home in London seeking the sun, a relaxing holiday and some BASE jumping in Lake Garda, Italy, only to discover upon arrival that the whole region was plagued by snowstorms. It was easy to focus on the negatives in this situation, believe me, but if you look hard enough, and train your mind to do so, you can see the positives even in a seemingly ruined holiday. The lake was so very peaceful, and nearly empty, and the intensity of the weather created dramatic scenes on the deserted beaches, usually filled with sunbathers. We enjoyed some of the best hiking and lakeside strolls we have ever had there.

Cultivate Gratitude Over the Holidays

Starting with Thanksgiving this Thursday lets all make a pact to cultivate the gratitude in our lives. Start your own 21 day challenge (download our free Toolkit for help with this), and reflect on what you are thankful for when the sun rises and the sun sets and try to find the good in even the worst of situations.

Thanksgiving Special

We’ve just published our first book on Amazon and we’re offering a Thanksgiving Special of only $0.99/£0.77. We’d love it if you could download the book or purchase the print version – it would help us out and we know it’s full of real value that you will really love too – click here to see it on Amazon and to read more.

If you have a spare few seconds then we’d also love it if you could leave a review on Amazon too and help others to find the book.