Honoring this month of thanks…
It’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing, the temps are dropping and fall is finally upon us! With the upcoming holiday around the corner we all start to prepare–be it getting ready for travel, getting the house ready for visitors or prepping for the big feast we all feel the presence of Thanksgiving upon us. How else might we experience the upcoming holiday? How else might we set it apart for ourselves and for our kids from other holidays, from other months? I invite you this November to create new traditions for yourself and/or your family in this month of thanks, as it is an opportunity to both teach and to experience the magic of giving thanks.
Gratitude: There is no better time to bring focus and attention to gratitude than in this month of thanks. As we go through our busy days most of us rarely stop to think about or acknowledge all that we are thankful for, all that we appreciate in ourselves, in others, or in the world. Taking an intentional moment each day to truly appreciate who or what we have, how much we do, and life around us brings a new level of experience to those things. The seemingly ordinary can become extraordinary with new lenses of gratitude and we begin to take fewer things for granted and actually feel better, happier and more present. I invite you to try it. Start a gratitude practice today be it in the form of a one-line-a-day journal, as your Facebook status, or with your kids around the dinner table. For an example, see CORE Parent Coaching’s month of thanks status updates on Facebook. Find something that works for you and stick with it all month. Invite your Thanksgiving dinner guests to share what they are most grateful for this year. Lastly, be sure to give thanks out loud to people in your life – it will make you both feel good! “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” -William Arthur Ward.
Appreciation: Also in this month of thanks, and as you begin to find more to be grateful for, I also encourage you to appreciate more: appreciate all that is good, all that is working versus all that is not, all that is wonderful and all that is good in you as a mom, in your kids, in your family, in your job situation (or lack there of), in life. The more you bring your attention to what is working, the more of it you will see, the more gratitude you will experience and the more peaceful and present you will feel. Appreciate yourself and be kind to yourself: take better care of yourself and give yourself the gift of time purely for you. Appreciate your kids for where they are in their process of becoming rather than where you wish them to be and tell them what you appreciate about them more often. Appreciate your husband, your nanny, your teachers and all those that are part of your life experience. Appreciate all that is working in your marriage, your parenting, your family and your life. Write it down and say it out loud! Appreciate what you have in life rather than compare yourself to someone who seemingly has more. Appreciate those people who contribute to your life both big and small. Appreciate nature, your home, your safety, and your health. Take nothing for granted. Appreciate what you wish to see more of and you will, not because it is magic but because you will have opened your eyes in a new way and exposed your mind and heart to new ways of experiencing your life.
Giving: There are various ways to give and to contribute to those around us. We give when we say “thanks,” we give when we express our appreciation, and we give when we do for others. Being of contribution and making a difference to a larger whole is an innate human need for most of us. It helps us feel connected, useful, and good about ourselves and it inevitably brings similar feelings to those on the receiving end, it’s a win-win! There are many ways to give and to teach giving to kids. Even young children can experience giving by contributing to the home such as setting up or cleaning up the dinner table or cleaning up the living room before bed, contributing to the larger household, their first environment of which they feel a part. Giving can be small-scale or large-scale. You can give change to the homeless man at the light or serve lunch at a homeless shelter. You can help someone cross the street or let a hurried mom cut in front of you in the grocery line or give bags of clothes to battered women’s shelters. You can visit a sick friend or visit a retirement home. You can help your child collect toys he no longer plays with to give to kids who do not have many toys. You can send your old clothes to a friend who has less rather than putting them on e-bay. Do something nice for someone you know or someone you don’t know even if it is inconvenient; go out of your way for someone else. Look for opportunities to make a difference and you will start to see more of them! Give of yourself during this month of thanks!
I thank you, my readers, for letting me share of myself with you this year. With a healthy dose of gratitude, appreciation, and giving I know we will all have a meaningful month of thanks!
As always, find the balance…
Galit Birk, PhD