thankful on wooden background

Top 10 Ways to Practice Gratitude This Thanksgiving

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I don’t know about you, but I just love how the world tells me that Thanksgiving is on its way. The weather brings a crisp, chilly air that graces me with less hair frizz, the deer are easily spotted on my afternoon walk, and sports bars become full of raving college football fans. Autumn is one of my favorite times of year, and these autumn markers remind me that one of my favorite holidays, Thanksgiving, is on its way! With my husband being from Argentina, he didn’t grow up celebrating Thanksgiving. He recently asked me why Thanksgiving is so important for us who celebrate the holiday. To me, it helps bring me back to a state of giving thanks for all the wonderful blessings I’ve received in the last year. Yes, food, football, and fall candles are fun and all, but at the heart of Thanksgiving is a spirit of appreciation, and it’s valuable for us to take some time to be grateful this season. Here are my top 10 ways to practice gratitude this Thanksgiving!

Honor the Bad

This seems like a very controversial way to practice gratitude. I know what you’re thinking, “why is Val telling me to focus on the bad when I’m trying to be grateful? This makes no sense!” I get it, but I still think this is important! How can we be grateful for what we have now, without acknowledging the struggle it took us to get here? 

For me, some of what makes the highs of my life so incredible, is knowing the effort, hard work, and persistence it took to get there. For instance, I am grateful for my chronic illness diagnosis because it made graduating from college and achieving my dream working for Walt Disney World that much more special, knowing it wasn’t an easy road to accomplish these goals!

Gratitude Journal

Keep a Gratitude Journal

Consider keeping a notebook or journal by your nightstand. Then, each morning, write down 1-5 things you are grateful for. You don’t want this to be overwhelming, as the goal is to easily add gratitude to your routine. This can also be a great way for you to remember good things that have happened in your life. If you wake up to a particularly hard day, you can go back through your gratitude journal and remember that time you received an amazing doctor’s report or when your husband made you feel so loved during that one date.

Take More Pictures and Videos 

I absolutely love going through the camera app on my phone and remembering all the fun, special moments I’ve had in my past. Visual cues are a wonderful way to jog your memory and reflect on the little moments that have been made so meaningful to you now. I love looking at the photos and pictures my husband and I took back when we were just coworkers and friends. It’s so exciting to think about the little seeds we planted as friends that helped bloom into the love we have for each other today. Truly, looking through my old pictures and videos can bring my worst moods to ones of gratitude!

Coffee cup

Random Acts of Kindness

I know you’ve heard this a thousand times, but I’m reminding you because it’s such an easy way to practice gratitude! The most classic example is to pay for the coffee order behind you in your favorite drive-thru. I know this has become a bit redundant or overused, but I have absolutely zero negative emotions when I am on the receiving end of this, and I bet it’s the same for you too. It has always made me feel so genuinely grateful to know a random stranger paid for my Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew. Here are a couple more creative ideas:

  • Throw together a gratitude gift bag to ding-dong-ditch for your neighbors and friends! Shop the dollar section at Target or visit the Dollar-Tree for supplies. Little snacks, candy, or a bottle of wine is all it takes for this quick and easy random act of kindness!
  • Let someone in a hurry cut in front of you in line at the grocery store. We all know how dreadful it is to grocery shop around the holidays. If you see someone in a hurry or shopping after a long day at work, take an extra four minutes to let them check out ahead of you. You’ll be shocked at the appreciation you might receive in response!

These are just a few ideas to get started; spend a few minutes getting your creative juices flowing and draft a list of your own random acts of kindness you’d like to participate in. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time, money or effort on your part to really turn someone’s day around.

Keep a Gratitude Card Box

Remember how your grandma kept every single hallmark card she ever received? Mine would literally display them on her mantle, she cherished her cards so much! I always thought this was a bit crazy, (and honestly there’s a tiny part of me that still thinks it’s a bit extra) but I think our grandparents actually had a good thing going here! 

Think about it. I have yet to feel annoyed receiving a nice letter from a friend or family member. While we might not want to keep them on our mantle, I think it could be helpful to keep cherished letters handy for a rainy day. Grab an old shoebox and start throwing those old-fashioned letters with the crazy cursive handwriting you can barely read from your grandparents into your gratitude card box.

I know many of us don’t send cards and letters anymore, but you can still practice this! Did you get a nice text or email from a friend on your birthday? Print it and throw it in this box too! When you’re feeling down or stressed, take a few moments to read through your letters and be thankful for such great family and friends in your life! 

dog holding thank you card

Say “Thank You” More Often

Surprise someone by thanking them for the little things! Think of instances when a coworker quickly completed an extra step for you, your spouse unloaded the dishwasher, a friend sent you a coffee gift card, or someone complimented your top in the grocery store. What an easy way to lift someone’s mood! Make it genuine too; express why you appreciate that little task your friend carried out for you.

Oftentimes the argument might arise, “but my spouse is supposed to unload the dishwasher. That’s his job.” In this case, it really doesn’t matter! You can still be grateful they completed this step, so you didn’t have to think about it or remind them to complete their chores. 

Surround Yourself with Grateful People

Who comes to mind when you think of a grateful person? The moment I wrote this heading, I immediately pictured my person. Hang around these friends more! Be intentional to spend time with the people who practice thankfulness with the same intentionality you do. If this person is long distance, pick up the phone and catch up over Facetime! 

This is also true for social media. Pay attention to which accounts lift your spirits, and which drag you down. This is a wonderful opportunity to hide or unfollow those that drag you down and make your social media a safe haven for creators that boost your mood!

Send a Message to the People You Love

For this one, I want you to think from your own perspective about how loved and appreciated you have felt after receiving a quick message of appreciation from a coworker, friend, or family member. Take 10 minutes to reciprocate and supply the warm fuzzies to those you care about! It takes almost no time to send a text, voice memo, call, or letter to your loved ones. This can be a great way to break the ice with a friend you’d like to get to know better too!

woman walking in green forest

Practice Gratitude for Your Body

This is especially important for my chronic illness fighters! It is necessary for you to express gratitude for your body and the ways in which it supports and fights for you every day. We all know this is important, but it’s a bit trickier to put into action. Here are ways you can show gratitude for your body:

  • Take care of your body
    • Take your medication and vitamins every single day
    • Move your body with a stretch, a 5-minute walk, or an afternoon swim
    • Feed it well. I’m not necessarily suggesting you eat a kale salad every meal. Of course, we should aim to feed our body nourishing and healthy meals whenever possible, but we also need to be feeding our souls too! It’s important that we have a balanced lifestyle with food, so enjoy that Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, but maybe have a nutritious meal the next day.
    • Engage in self-care. Treat yourself to a pedicure, a long bath, a trip to the chiropractor or your massage therapist! When my body feels good, I feel good! 
  • Practice affirmations – I know this seems corny, but I want you to consider adding this to your routine! Give this time and watch how your negative self-talk starts to silence! Examples of affirmations include:
    • My illness does not define me 
    • My body is resilient and supports me
    • My body is beautiful and perfect just as it is.
    • I give thanks for what this illness has taught me 
    • The more I care for my body, the more it cares for me.

Watch Your Attitude

In a world full of instant gratification and entitlement, it can be easy to choose annoyance, criticism, and negativity when things don’t go our way. This can easily become an addiction too; it starts with being wronged in a big way, but it doesn’t take long at all to become easily irritated by a notification popping up on your phone. If you aren’t careful, you’ll find yourself deep in a pit of negativity over everything in your life. 

Don’t get me wrong, this is a difficult one, and I struggle with this myself daily, but it is crucial we watch our attitudes and emotions. How can we correct this? It starts with reframing one negative thought. When you notice your neighbor didn’t pick up their dog’s poop and you find yourself huffing and puffing about it, instead, put yourself in their shoes. Maybe your neighbor is having some really debilitating back pain right now and you need to be patient with them. Or maybe they truly are just lazy human beings, but recognize this annoyance affects your headspace, not theirs! Don’t give them control of your mind in that way.

I implore you to also invite friends and family to join and help you in this. Remember in your college communications class, when you had to prepare a speech in front of the entire class and your professor would honk a horn or rink a bell every single time you said “like” or “um” during your speech? I absolutely hated the interruption, but it was important, because without that bell ring, I would have never realized that I had spent 7 seconds saying “um”. The bell ring brought awareness to just how often I was using these filler words. 

When it came to complaining, I knew I complained some, but I had no idea just how often I relied on complaining to fill my day. I desperately wanted to get control over this, but how was I supposed to do that when I didn’t even realize when I was complaining? This is when my husband and I brainstormed a code-word. Every time he picks up on me complaining, he will completely interrupt me and shout “red peppers” (long story short, I hate red peppers, so this easily brought me awareness). It’s super important to me to nip my complaining in the bud, and my husband using this code word to point out these moments has been truly life-changing and eye-opening for me. While he still needs to use the code-word occasionally, it’s much less often now that I’m actually aware of the frequency with which I complain. Try this for yourself and see the thankfulness that floods to your awareness!


In conclusion, remember gratitude is a choice; it doesn’t just come to you! If you want to be a grateful person, you must consciously choose appreciation each and every day. Start with one of these many ways to practice gratitude this Thanksgiving. Now tell me, what are you grateful for today? For me, today I’m grateful for a wonderful team of intelligent, collaborative doctors who consistently care for me. Share yours in the comments below!

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7 thoughts on “Top 10 Ways to Practice Gratitude This Thanksgiving”

  1. I’m excited to find this wonderful and thoughtful post just in time for Thanksgiving. I really love all of your ideas to practice a grateful life. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Hi Val,
    Interesting article.
    Definitely something to be worked on.
    The only area I slightly disagree with is taking pics and videos – I find nowadays (I’m late forties), but too much time is wasted taking pics and videos and not enough time living! So, yes, whilst great, I think it needs to be added that folks shouldn’t spend too much time on them!
    Many thanks – Heather

    1. I totally get this! I definitely think there needs to be a balance of enjoying the moment but also finding ways to treasure and remember the moment too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    1. This is me! I get so wrapped up in enjoying the moment that I forget to snap a pic to remember later on, but I absolutely love going through my camera roll and getting all the warm and fuzzies reflecting back on the fun times! Hope this is helpful for you too 🙂

  3. Pingback: 10 Daily Habits to Make You Happier - Val's Magical Life

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