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10 Gratitude Exercises: Fun Ways Of Practicing Gratitude With Your Family This Thanksgiving

Gratitude Exercises

Thanksgiving is a great time to be thankful for all the blessings we have in our life. But it shouldn’t be the only time when we are grateful. Practicing gratitude can make your thanksgiving even better. Here are some gratitude exercises to truly celebrate the things you are thankful for.

Thanksgiving: A day to be thankful

Thanksgiving is a holiday that reminds us to be grateful and thankful for what we have in our lives – our family, loved ones, career, health, passions and mental wellbeing. No wonder, most of us feel a sense of togetherness, closeness and warmth during this holiday as practicing gratitude can result in various positive feelings. 

Do you know about the history of thanksgiving? Thanksgiving was officially created as a holiday by the Congress in 1789 when the first National Thanksgiving Proclamation was issued by President George Washington. He made it a day of public thanksgiving under the new Constitution. And so the first official thanksgiving was held on Thursday, November 26, 1789.

Related: 25 Unique Thanksgiving Traditions To Try Out With Your Family & Friends

thanksgiving day

Sadly, the original beauty and spirit of the holiday is slowly fading away due to the commercialization of the holiday, thanks to (pun intended) the shopping madness driven by the infamous Black Friday and the recent Cyber Monday. And this is why it has become increasingly important that we hold on to the original tradition of practicing gratitude on this day to celebrate the authentic Thanksgiving spirit. Thanksgiving is a day for spending with our family, to share our love and happiness with each other and be grateful for their presence. Gratitude practices can not only strengthen our relationships, it can also make us happier and healthier. That’s the power of gratitude.

Studies show that gratitude exercises and activities can significantly help in improving mental health and reducing perceived stress and depression. In fact, according to the science of gratitude, there are many more benefits of gratitude such as –

  • Lower aggression and increased empathy 
  • Better physical and psychological well-being
  • Better sleep
  • Improved resilience
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Reduced depression
  • Better immune system
  • Longer life span

If you haven’t been practicing gratitude lately, then November is a good time to get started with some gratitude exercises and use positive psychology to improve your relationships and life. 

Related: 50+ Best Thanksgiving Quotes And Sayings To Show Your Gratitude

5 Ways of practicing gratitude with your family this Thanksgiving 

Expressing gratitude is important. But what is gratitude? It is the “appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself; it is a general state of thankfulness and/or appreciation,” explain researchers. While practicing gratitude should be a year-long practice, Thanksgiving is the perfect time to take your gratitude efforts to the next level. It’s time we look beyond eating a scrumptious thanksgiving turkey & holiday pie and saying special grace before our meal. This time we start some new traditions with our family to show our gratitude along with having a grand Thanksgiving feast.

But how to practice gratitude? Well, here are 10 simple yet beautiful gratitude activities for thanksgiving that will help you appreciate the beauty of life and be inspired by it with a thankful heart. 

1. Keep a gratitude journal

Gratitude Journal

Journaling is the simplest and easiest way of practicing gratitude towards the people, things, experiences and opportunities you value in your life. Simply write down about 3 to 5 things you are grateful for by reflecting on the past few days or weeks. However, you need to do this daily. If you struggle about finding things to write about every single day, focus on the little things that make you happy. This will help you shift your focus from a  scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset. This exercise can also help you sleep better, stay healthier and happier. 

According to a 2020 study, gratitude journaling is “not novel; writing three instances of gratitude a few times per week can improve wellness.Journaling for even one day can help you build the right mindset to meet challenges in your daily life. It can also result in better work-life balance and “significant benefits in happiness, depression, and emotional exhaustion (measure of burnout) for up to 1 year. Start today!,” suggest researchers. 

Related: How A Gratitude Journal Can Help You Fight Negative Thinking

2. Say grace before meals

Saying grace before a Thanksgiving dinner is an age-old tradition that most of us still practice. However, we can use this tradition to express our gratitude for our family by adding a fun little twist – simply ask each family member at the dinner table to share what they are thankful for in the past year. Saying grace before a meal is a perfect opportunity for practicing gratitude by appreciating everyone who works hard to make our lives better – from our mother and spouse for cooking the Thanksgiving meal to the farmer and the clerk at our local grocery store who brought the food to us.

Saying grace allows us to be mindful and consider the contribution of everyone who we usually take for granted. 

3. Rampage of Appreciation

Suggested by New York Times bestselling author Abraham Hicks, this is one of the most popular ways of practicing gratitude that can be done by anyone. Start by observing your immediate environment and finding something that you find beautiful and pleasing. Keep your attention focused on this object and appreciate how beautiful, fascinating and purposeful it is. Now the more you focus your attention on it and think about it, the more you will appreciate it and feel positive about it.

At this moment, become mindful of your thoughts and emotions and be grateful for the positive emotions you are feeling. When your positive feelings have become more intense than when you started, focus on something else in your environment that you find pleasing and beautiful.

Related: 3 Effects of Gratitude On The Brain and Body, According To Science

The concept of rampage of appreciation was introduced in the book ‘Ask And It Is Given’ by Abraham Hicks. This technique helps us focus on the energy of positive thoughts that we can use anywhere and anytime to boost our sense of fulfillment and happiness. Based on the Law of Vibration, it helps us to tap into the energy and vibration of positive thoughts. You can do this exercise alone or with your family on thanksgiving or as a daily gratitude exercise.

practicing gratitude

4. Start a service project with your family

One of the best ways of practicing gratitude is serving and giving to others. And what can be better to make your thanksgiving special than conducting a charity or volunteering event with every member of your family. When we serve the needy, we will be more thankful for what we have in our life and experience more positive feelings. In fact, studies have found that those who volunteer regularly experience better mental and physical health and individual wellbeing

So make sure to plan for a service project with your family members that everyone feels passionate about. You can start by –

  • Cooking and serving food at your local soup kitchen
  • Sharing food, old clothes & blankets with homeless people
  • Visiting and doing something nice for senior citizens residing at your local retirement facility
  • Cleaning up garbage from a polluted area in your neighborhood or the beach
  • Volunteering to care for and playing with dogs and cats in your local animal shelter

Related: 10 Things You Should Be Grateful For When Going Through Tough Times This Thanksgiving

Not sure how this is going to make you and your family more grateful during thanksgiving? Let me explain. Once you have participated in an act of service, ask each member about how they feel about efforts and actions related to helping others. Most of them will feel grateful for what they have in their own lives and for having the ability to help others. The ability to make someone else happy is a great power that we all feel intrinsically thankful for. 

According to a 2016 study, altruistic behavior can have an immediate internal reward for the altruistic performer. It can promote our well-being, quality of life and increase our “internal psychological potential to cope with the intense threat and pursue positive results.” Further studies show that people who volunteer frequently have more respect for themselves and others, experience more positive emotions and lower negative emotions and experience  higher levels of well-being. Now that’s definitely something to feel grateful for on this thanksgiving day.

5. Paint a gratitude rock

Practicing gratitude with a rock? Yup. Ask each member of your family to get outside and find a piece of rock or a stone – something small and smooth that can easily fit in the pocket or a purse. The goal is to carry the rock with you at all times so the size needs to be small enough to be carried conveniently. Once all members have picked a rock according to their liking, gather your family together and ask them to paint their respective rocks and decorate it.

The objective of these painted gratitude rocks is that these will act as a reminder for you to be more grateful. Every time you see the rock, whether while putting it into your purse or taking it out of your pocket, pause for a moment and think of something that you are grateful for. It can be something as small as the beautiful weather on that day or something major like your recent promotion at work.

Related: 5 Ways Gratitude Improves Our Mental Health

This is one of the simplest gratitude exercises for thanksgiving that you can do with your family. The rock serves as a physical reminder for what you have in your life. It allows you to be mindful in your daily life by making you pause and practice gratitude. Repeat the process with your family every day to think of something you are grateful for yesterday.

benefits of gratitude

5 More thanksgiving gratitude activities to do with your family

Here are some more  well-known gratitude exercises and activities that you can do with your whole family to improve your sense of thankfulness and gratefulness – 

6. Gratitude jar

Another great way for practicing gratitude is the gratitude jar. Decorate a gratitude jar and fill it with little notes of things you are grateful for. Over time you will have tons of things you are thankful for in your life.

7. Gratitude tree

Make a gratitude tree with your children by cutting out leaf shaped pieces from colorful papers and writing down things you are grateful for. Assemble all the pieces of paper leaves and glue them to a small branch or a twig to create your gratitude tree. You may also create a gratitude garden with multiple gratitude trees. You can do this with your children and with other adults.

Related: How To Make Entitled Kids Grateful: 7 Helpful Strategies

gratitude exercises

8. Gratitude reflection

Among all popular ways of practicing gratitude, the gratitude reflection is my favorite. Take a few deep breaths to relax yourself and be mindful of your environment. Now think about the things you are thankful for – your loved ones, career opportunities, personal health etc. Reflect upon all the good things you have in life and thank the universe for the precious gift called life.

9. Gratitude letter

This is one of the most powerful ways of practicing gratitude. Simply write a letter, whether hand-written or an email, to someone you are really thankful for having in your life. Be detailed and personal about their most admired traits and send it to them. It doesn’t have to be long, it just needs to be from your heart.

10. Gratitude photo collage

It’s time to use your selfies to good use with one of the most fun gratitude exercises. Take a selfie with all your family members whom you love and are thankful for having in your life, including your family dog. Now create a collage with the photos and share with your loved ones on your social media profiles. You can even print a few copies and thank them in person.

Related: Thanksgiving And Developing An Attitude Of Gratitude In Hard Times

Celebrate what you are thankful for

practice gratitude

Thanksgiving is a time when we celebrate our gratefulness for the people and things that make our life meaningful and worth living. While some of us may not be as expressive as we might want to be around our family, we can still make an effort for practicing gratitude and show our loved ones how much they mean to us. 

The gratitude exercises mentioned above can help you celebrate gratitude this thanksgiving with your family and friends and strengthen the bonds you share with your loved ones. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Related: 101 Things To Be Grateful For Today


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Theo Harrison

Hey there! I am just someone trying to find my way through life. I am a reader, writer, traveler, fighter, philosopher, artist and all around nice guy. I am outdoor person but heavily into technology, science, psychology, spiritualism, Buddhism, martial arts and horror films. I believe in positive action more than positive thinking.View Author posts

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