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Saying thanks

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It doesn’t matter if you’re alone this Thanksgiving or if you’re having turkey with the whole extended family: giving thanks is downright therapeutic.

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A whole body of research backs up the fact that practicing gratitude – deliberately focusing on what is good in life and acknowledging that it’s a blessing – has far-reaching benefits on personal wellbeing.

But what if life is hard and there’s not much to be thankful for at the moment?

First of all, it’s important to realize that we can control our thoughts, to some extent. So if anger and impatience and frustration are omni­present in your life, it is entirely within your grasp to spend a few moments every day in thought about things you are grateful for. It might help to make a short list with pen and paper or in an e-mail you send to yourself every morning.

Even if your stress level is high and sadness is just around the corner, take a few easy breaths and list five things that are positive in your life or around you.

And at Thanksgiving dinner this year, why not encourage everybody to do the same. Leave a blank piece of paper and a pencil at every place setting. When sitting down to table, invite each family member and guest to write down one thing for which they are thankful. Ask them to drop their slips of paper into a bowl; next, ask each person to draw a word and read it aloud.

The gratitude can remain anonymous or the thankful owner can claim it. Chances are, everyone will enjoy sharing the thought.

Thanksgiving storytelling

For a lot of families these days, it’s pretty hard to get everyone around the dinner table at the same time. Even the youngest family members have busy schedules, with extracurricular lessons and classes and clubs.

That’s why a proper Thanksgiving dinner is more important than ever. But if turning off the TV and rounding up the kids and cousins feels a bit like herding cats, why not tempt them to stick around until dessert with an interesting twist at the table.

When you’re choosing your Thanksgiving centerpiece, include a small object that will become the storyteller’s place holder. That means that whoever is holding the tiny pumpkin or pretty autumn leaf is allowed to tell a little story of thanksgiving without interruption.

The storyteller can put the object back in the middle of the table when he or she is finished or pass it on to the next person. When you’re explaining the rules of the game, be sure to suggest limiting anecdotes to a reasonable length and keeping the content appropriate for the crowd.

Young kids can share about a funny incident at school or a good family story, while the older folks can reminisce about Thanksgiving dinners gone by.

Whether meant to be funny, nostalgic, or just a humble expression of gratitude, every story is a reason to sit and listen. Storytelling teaches kids about where they come from and that family is important.

And it reminds everybody that real life is more important than what’s happening on TV while dinner’s being served.

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