On the eve of Thanksgiving 2020, I am grateful.
I am grateful for my husband, my family, my team members, my friends. I am grateful for my health, for the roof over my head, for the food on my plate. I am grateful to still have a brand to nurture, to still have a job.
I am also grateful for some very “2020 specific” people and things, which have made this “unprecedented” (may I never hear this word again) year not only a teaching year, but an interesting, and sometimes yes, even enjoyable, year. Here is my “special 2020 gratitude list.”
- Thank you Black Lives Matter activists. For teaching me about systematic racism, white privilege, white supremacy, and what I can do differently.
- Thank you Garrett Graff. For the books you have written (The Only Plane in the Sky remains my top book of 2020), but even more for the various articles you have written on the state of our country in 2020 which have helped me understand. Two stand out: this one from March in The Atlantic and the one from earlier this month in Wired Magazine that helped me better understand my adopted country.
- Thank you to my friends who have different political opinions than mine. While I do not agree with you, you expand my thinking and contribute to my understanding of what is important to people.
- Thank you Hitha Palepu. I am grateful for your content, ranging from 5 Smart Reads to your book recommendations. I am grateful for the playlists you share. I am grateful that you love my skin care brand.
- Thank you Victoria Hislop. I have consumed your books anytime I have needed to go back to Greece in my head (which has been quite often lately…).
- Thank you The Weeknd. You are my 2020 soundtrack. Thanks to you, I got out of bed when I didn’t want to, I ran faster when I wanted to quit, and I danced when I needed to.
- Thank you to my three passports. I have sometimes taken you for granted, even forgotten I had you. But not this year. Not this year.
- Thank you Universe. You sent me two adorable sister kittens in mid-April. They have been my favorite pandemic-coping strategy. You knew what I needed even before I did.
I love to send handwritten notes. Birthday cards (yes, even to adults); “random” notes (sometimes with an article I think will be of interest;) and of course, thank you notes.
One of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received was from my girlfriend Heidi Kallett, former owner of the Dandelion Patch. She gave me 365 thank you cards and envelopes, and the book 365 Thank yous by John Kralik. The cards are long gone, the book is on my bookshelf as a reminder to keep at it.
If you don’t write thank you notes, try it. A hand-written thank you note is an overt act of gratitude, something the world needs more of.
When to send
- Anytime you open a gift in absence of the giver. Really, anytime you receive a gift.
- Anytime to are invited to someone’s home for a lunch, dinner, or party.
- As soon as you can possibly write the note is the most opportune time to send them.
- Keep in mind it is worse to never send the note than to send it 6 months after receiving a gift. While more timely is better, the time for a thank you note never has lapsed. Not sending a thank you note is always worse.
- The most memorable thank you notes are thank yous for random acts of kindness, because those are the most unexpected.
- Anytime you question whether you should or should not send a thank you note, you should send one.
- There is never a wrong time or occasion to send a thank you note.
- Always send a thank you note to a prospective employer who has taken the time to interview you.
- It is always appropriate to send an immediate thank you email, but only in addition to the hand-written note that will follow.
What to say (and what not to say)
- Always mention something specific about the gift, preferably how or where you are going to use it; this specificity is particularly important if you received a gift card.
- Remember that even if you do not like the actual gift, you are thanking someone for his or her thoughtfulness and for the fact that they put time and effort into the gift.
- Never say you won’t enjoy the gift, have a duplicate of the gift, or will never use it. (Yes, this seems obvious, but you would be surprised…)
Modern day rules
- An email thank you is never a replacement for a hand-written thank you note.
- Because of the prevalence of email, actually, a hand-written thank you note will have even more of an impact.
Start today. Send one thank you card to someone, just because. And then sit back, and enjoy how it makes you feel, and how it makes the recipient feel.
Last week, gratitude was high on my, and everyone’s, list. I loved the social media posts highlighting gratitude and love (what a lovely break from political arguments!), I loved sending out gratitude notes to family, friends, colleagues, and I loved receiving similar notes in return. I want to hang on to this feeling well past Thanksgiving. Really, I want gratitude to be #1 on my list every day of the year. Lucky for me, I have Debra Neill Baker in my life, to be an inspiration and remind me of the importance of a daily practice of gratitude.
Here are her tips to ensure a grateful state of mind, beyond Thanksgiving:
1. Write in a journal, write down what you are grateful for. The act of writing it down moves us more into gratitude, training us to capture what is good in our world.
2. Embrace the not-so-good too. Learning to be grateful for the lessons and learning that comes with it. Making our learning greater than our less-than desirable experiences.
3. Express gratitude rather than keeping it to yourself. Not expressing your gratitude can be perceived as ingratitude.
4. Enjoy the small things. This season is perfect for rediscovering your inner child… be childlike, curious, open, and loving!
5. Engage. Be active, be of service. Doing for others always comes back two-fold!
6. Pray, reflect… daily. Spend time with yourself in silence visualizing the life and world you want, overcoming challenges.
7. Replace complaints, criticism, gossip with gratitude. Be mindful and watch yourself and your words, knowing that words are powerful and carry energy.
Thank you Debra for these gratitude strategies, today and every day.
On the day before Thanksgiving, it is only to be expected that I write about gratitude. After all, that is the theme this week. A recent article from the New York Times by Arthur C. Brooks on why choosing to be grateful will make you happier helps me frame my specific thinking.
In this piece, Brooks suggests a technique that my Mother has always preached: when you are grumpy, fake-smile at yourself in the mirror and you’ll end up smiling for real. I still use this trick, and it works every single time. Brooks agrees “acting happy, regardless of feelings, coaxes one’s brain into processing emotions… this action stimulates brain activity associated with positive emotions.”
Brooks further suggests that gratitude is another technique to become happier: “Choosing to focus on good things makes you feel better than focusing on bad things.” He has three specific techniques to help with gratitude:
- Practice “interior gratitude” – “the practice of giving thanks privately.” I try to do this every day when I wake up, with a deadline of by 10 am as sometimes I lack inspiration at 5 am. Today, I am grateful for the beautiful fall crisp weather, the crunch of the fallen leaves under my feet, and the bright blue sky.
- Practice “exterior gratitude, which focuses on public expression.” This morning, I am grateful for sharing the morning with my brother (in law) Michael, discussing life, family, politics, and high school football. Thank you Michael for starting your day with me.
- “Be grateful for useless things.” Brooks says that while it is easy to be grateful for the “most important and obvious parts of life” (my husband, my family, my health), it is powerful to find gratitude in “insignificant trifles.” I love this idea. And today, my insignificant trifle is the sound of the chirping birds.
I recommit to practicing gratitude, daily. It is good for my heart, my soul, my happiness. Happy Thanksgiving to you!