By Daisy Yau
November is here, and that means Thanksgiving. Yes, there will be lots of eating, lots of gatherings, perhaps even lots of traveling. But don’t forget to breathe. Pause. Reflect. Give thanks. Gratitude does not necessarily come naturally to us, or to our kids. It takes deliberate practice to cultivate a good habit. Here are some things you can do this month to bring some positive energy into your household.
- Make a thankful tree. In the simplest version: draw a large bare tree, and stick it onto the wall. Print out some leaves, and cut them out. Everyday, ask everyone to write one thing that they give thanks for this past year. By the end of the month, the tree will be full of thankful leaves! There are many ways to execute the same concept. You can put a bunch of branches in a vase. Then hang thankful leaves using strings onto the branches. You can even go fancy and add acorn favors. No matter how you do it, everyone can gather together on Thanksgiving Day to review all that there is to give thanks for.
- Make a kindness tree. It’s like a thankful tree in reverse. Rather than looking backwards on things to give thanks for, the kindness tree looks forward to inspire acts of kindness. Think about the things that you’ve always wanted to do but never found time for… such as, giving flowers to a neighbor, or making blankets to the homeless, or washing the dishes for mom, or sharing a stuffy with sister. Write kindness prompts on leaves, hang them on a tree, and do one per day.
- Keep a 3-year journal. Buy a nice notebook. Divide each page into three sections: the top section is for this year 2022, the middle section is for next year 2023, the bottom section is for 2024. Each page corresponds to a day in November: page 1 is November 1, page 2 is November 2, etc. Everyday in the month of November, reflect upon what you’re thankful for, and write it in the journal. This year, write your thanksgivings in the top section of each page. Keep the journal for next year, and do the same thing but write your thanksgivings in the middle sections. And again the following year, but in the bottom sections. You can then see how you’ve grown or changed throughout the years.
- Write an appreciation letter. Think of someone in your life, perhaps someone you don’t often say thank you to. Write a letter expressing how much you appreciate them. Write about specific instances where they did something you are grateful for. Write about how you felt when they were kind to you.
- Say grace before meals. It can be but does not necessarily have to be religious. It’s always good to give thanks for your food. You can close your eyes and say thanks. You can all hold hands and say thanks. Or if you don’t know the words, you can sing a song. One simple song goes like this: “Thank you for the world so sweet, thank you for the food we eat, thank you for the birds that sing, thank you now for everything.”
- Do a gratitude walk. There is so much in nature to be thankful for. And it’s good for your body to get a nice walk after so much food. As you walk along, say thanks for all that you see. Try to observe the details. How does a bird fly? How does a squirrel hop? How do leaves look? How do clouds change? Give thanks for all there is in this world!
Daisy Yau is an SPMC Board Member, an attorney, and the children ministry director at New Life Community Church, Burlingame.