Gratitude: Are you ready to take the gratitude challenge?

I love Thanksgiving. Sure, turkey is a favorite. And I crave my Mom’s stuffing. But like so many others, what I most love about Thanksgiving is being with family and friends with the pure and mutual intention of being thankful.

A holiday dedicated to celebrating the ritual of gratitude. In our family, before we eat, each person around the table has the chance to share what he or she is thankful for. It’s my favorite tradition (even better than the stuffing). This family ‘ritual’ allows, and even requires us to pause from our busy lives and express our gratitude.

Daily, new research surfaces on the science and benefits of gratitude. Studies have now proven a multitude of benefits from expressing gratitude; ranging from how it improves relationships, physical and emotional health, and sleep to mental stamina, energy and overall happiness. And even that it is physically impossible to feel fear and gratitude at the same moment! 

The antidote to fear is gratitude. The antidote to anger is gratitude. You can’t feel fear or anger while feeling gratitude at the same time. --Tony Robbins

The research on the benefits of gratitude is fascinating and hugely important.  Being grateful is one of the most simple,  yet powerful things you can do to change your life.  

Which is why I’m so excited about this challenge. The 38 days between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, also known as the ‘holidays’ is one of the busiest times of the year. What is meant to be a time of love, tradition, and celebration, has also become a time of shopping, stress and overwhelm. Too many parties. Too many places to go. So much to do. So much expense.

Don’t take my word for it. Just google “most stressful time of the year”. You’ll see that the entire first two pages are filled with research, stories and articles on stresses during the Holiday season. Yes, it seems we are filled with ‘joy and cheer’ and we are also filled with a significant amount of strain and overwhelm. Major causes of stress include: lack of time, lack of money and ‘commercialism’. This seems to be even more significant at work and for working parents.

We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends and living our lives.
-- Maya Angelou

Think about how you feel this time of the year. Are you looking forward to the coming weeks? Or are you feeling a little anxious just thinking about it?

What can we do to lessen the stress and overwhelm of the season? What if we could take the simple act of gratitude and transform our holiday season from a time of stress to a time of greater ease, peace and joy?

My challenge to you - and myself -  is to extend this most fulfilling ritual of Thanksgiving into the rest of the festive, yet busy, crazy, and stressful time ahead. 

How?  

Take the #gratitudechallenge.   

Practice at least one act of gratitude each and every day between Thanksgiving and New Years.  (Don't worry if you're reading this a few days after Thanksgiving, you can still take the challenge, just start today!)

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.   
--John F. Kennedy

Here are 10 example rituals of gratitude to get you started!

1. Keep a gratitude journal: There are many ways to do this and the research from  Robert Emmons at U.C. Davis is compelling! If you’re averse or overwhelmed by keeping a ‘journal’, you could just jot down 3 things you are grateful for at the end of each day.

2. Try Pow, Wow, Bow: No, this is not for dogs. It’s a simple and fun exercise for families. Since hearing about this from a friend of mine, I began to practice this with my family every time we are all seated at dinner together. Each person at the table shares his or her Pow (what wasn’t so great about today), Wow (what was the best thing about today), and Bow (what are you grateful for today). This quick process gets everyone talking about the day in a meaningful way. Bonus: Kids learn that we all have ups and downs and it’s ok to talk about all of it.

3. Set a gratitude alarm on your phone: When it goes off, find something for which you are thankful.

4. Practice a gratitude meditation: If you’re not sure which one, YouTube is your new best friend. Just type in “gratitude meditation” or “meditation for gratitude” and find one you like.

5. Send a note of gratitude to someone you love. This can be an email, a text or a handwritten note. Try it now!

6. Start the day off with gratitude: Before you step out of bed each morning, acknowledge two to three things you appreciate in your life.

7. Share the wealth: Make it a point to share your gratitude with one person every day.  Whether it be a teacher at school, a cashier at your local grocery store or one of your neighbors.  Let those special people know why you appreciate them and what you are thankful for.

8. Practice mindfulness: Take notice, every day of the things for which you are grateful. Especially when things get crazy and feel out of control, stop for a moment…Take a few breaths feeling your chest rise on the inhale and your body start to relax on the exhale. Then, find one thing to focus on, in that present moment, for which you are grateful. It might be as simple as acknowledging the breath you just took, the shoes on your feet or the fact you have so many presents to buy because you have so many loved ones!

9. Make a list: Grab a blank sheet of paper and write down everything you feel grateful for. You might start with just a few items, and then notice things start to flow from there. See if you can think of one more to add, and a few more from there. Maybe set a time for 2 minutes and see how many things you can write down in that time.  

10. Be in nature:  Find a place you can sit or walk and experience through your senses everything you are thankful for in nature. Notice the colors of the trees and the sky, the smells in the air. What do you hear if you listen closely? Take a moment to feel the earth beneath your feet or the breeze against your face.  

My go tos? #2,  #6  and #10. But I’d like to do more of #5. 

What about you? Which ritual(s) above do you feel you can commit to, to practice gratitude throughout the rest of this year? Maybe you have another favorite ritual for gratitude?  I'd love to hear about it!

They say it takes at least 21 days to create a habit. And the research from Emmons noted above, showed significant benefits after just 3 weeks. So,  imagine what is possible after 38 days!   

Being grateful invites even greater abundance into our lives.   I’ll be interested to hear what effect this practice has on you, your energy, stress levels and overall feelings of well-being and happiness. If it’s anything like the research out there, it’s going to be much more significant than you think! I’m even more excited about the momentum you will gather and the impact that will have as you enter the New Year!  

So, are you ready to join me and take the Gratitude Challenge?

Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance. --Eckhart Tolle