Extending Thankfulness Beyond the Dinner Table

Bakhtawar Yasir
Bakhtawar Yasir

For many, Thanksgiving is marked by eating a lot of food, doing a hefty amount of shopping, and just taking time to spend the day with loved ones you may not see often. Growing up, I’ll admit that I always thought that going to the mall and shopping would be the highlight of my Thanksgiving weekend. However, now, I’m most thankful for the time to recharge and take care of myself. It took me a while to learn that the time and energy I devote to myself is irreplaceable and that it is something simple that I can be thankful for. As I’ve spent time reflecting on all the other things I’m thankful for I’ve realized how much practicing gratitude and giving thanks not only during the holidays but every day, can benefit your mental health.

Something I’ve tried to implement in the past few weeks is practicing daily gratitude, and writing down five things each night that I’m thankful for from that day. Some days are easier than others to fill the list, but the beauty of that is that it allows us to search for the good things in all our days, not just the fun or memorable ones. Here’s an example of one of my lists: 

  1. Yummy food and the ability to eat three meals a day. 
  2. Chill movie night with roommates that I enjoy spending time with.
  3. Time spent helping my advisor with a project that made me feel good. 
  4. The strength to go to class even when I was feeling anxious. 
  5. Getting some mail I’ve been eagerly waiting for. 

Your list doesn’t have to be long, or detailed, or even different from day-to-day. As long as you’re taking intentional time to reflect on what made you happy that day, and what you’re thankful for in your everyday life, you’ll see a difference in how you treat each day and how you feel going about your daily routine.

Practicing daily thankfulness has taught me a lot. I first learned that some days are harder to find positive things than others. There are days when all I can find myself being thankful for are things as simple as a nice breakfast or good weather. I also learned that we can be thankful for small things, things that others might not even think twice about. Some days, I’m thankful for getting out of bed since I battle with depression. Thankfulness is meant to be unique to you, and your list doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. You don’t even need to share your items of gratitude with anyone else. This practice is for you and you alone. 

There are so many more things I am thankful for each day than I truly realize. Through practicing gratitude, I’ve learned that writing down these little parts of my day makes me more present in the moment, more attentive to the good in life, and more optimistic about the future. Life can pass by so fast that it is easy to forget the good parts of it. Thankfulness is one way to slow it down. Some days will be harder than others to find the good, and that’s normal. However, that also allows us to sit down and truly think about all the little things in life we can appreciate. The simple act of writing five things I am thankful for every day has changed my mindset on everyday life, allowed me to be proud of my small/big accomplishments, and encouraged me to search for positivity in places I didn’t expect to find it. I encourage you to practice gratitude not only this Thanksgiving but in your daily life as well. There’s no better time to start – it truly can change the way you view the good, the bad, and the ordinary in your life.