Your arms are covered to the elbow with breadcrumb dressing mix. You are baking side dishes ahead of time, because you have to go to work this week. And you have eight friends coming to Thanksgiving dinner.
You hope your guests won’t notice the dust bunnies collecting in the corners of your living room. It’s been so long since you have had company that you forgot how to clean — or you just didn’t bother.
Welcome to Thanksgiving 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage, but vaccines have allowed us to return to a semblance of “normal” — that is, if you are careful and practice sensible precautions, such as keeping inside groups small and spread apart.
Today is Sunday. You have four days before company arrives and you start carving the turkey and slinging the mashed potatoes.
It’s time to stop for a minute, or maybe a several minutes. Yes, really. All this work will wait.
Before you get lost in the stress and chaos of Thanksgiving, which kicks off the even more stressful month of holiday obligations, it’s time to pause and count your blessings — or more accurately, why you should be thankful.
Give it a try. Sit down and list just three things you are thankful for. Likely you could fill up an entire page. But that would take time and you still need to finish the dressing, pies and whatever else we interrupted with this “thankful” challenge.
In case you need a kick-start, here are a few prompts: You are alive. You survived pain and loss that made you stronger. You have forgiven some people and maybe been forgiven yourself. You have people in your life who love and support you. You may be grateful for your hope and faith.
The three things you list today don’t have to be big things. Maybe you just had a good hair day, or you are grateful you have eight friends to invite to your home. (Likely they will be so happy to be there that they will overlook any spots of dust.)
Learning to express sincere gratitude is one of the most important keys to success and happiness.
A Northeastern University study found people who felt grateful for small, everyday things were more patient and better able to make sensible decisions.
A study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found a positive relationship between gratitude and physical and psychological health that led to improved self-care, such as exercising, eating and seeking medical attention. Feeling grateful also seems to lead to better sleep. People who give thanks are more likely to care for their bodies.
Study participants who focused on three good moments or things that happened in each day experienced improvements in depression and overall happiness. Keeping a gratitude journal also appears to decrease materialism and bolster generosity among adolescents.
An NPR story reported about a study involving high school students who were asked to write a thank-you letter and then read it out loud to the recipient. The teacher reported “measurable improvements” in the students’ well-being even a month after they did the exercise.
Expressing gratitude is not a “miracle cure” for everyone struggling with problems — emotional, mental or physical problems.
But it likely can’t hurt and Thanksgiving is a good time to try it.
Consider this just a beginning. Make gratitude a year-round habit. Write down three things you are grateful for every day. Focus on the positive experiences, rather than just the negative ones.
Many things, including a compliment, can give you a burst of happiness. But sincere gratitude may provide sustained results that are based on a change in the way you look at life.