Thankfulness Challenge

The Holidays are upon us! God bless Costco and Michael’s for always decorating at least 5 months in advance of whatever holiday is next on the calendar so we can all feel uber behind all year long! This week I wanted to lighten things up a bit and talk about preparing your tribe for an amazing and memorable 2018 holiday season!

Halloween is gone and Mo-vem… I mean November is here. This is my ultimate favorite time of year. Sure, summer is awesome with all the beachy Sunday Fundays (I live in San Diego so that is what we do here), and spring brings the most amazing floral outdoor brunches but the weeks between Halloween and New Years are my JAM!  I am a planner by nature but I turn up during the holidays!

I am so pumped to host parties, kids craft days and all things involving the gathering of all my favorite people, food, and wine! The fact that I am SO pumped to do these things makes it so much more fun for everyone else. They can feel the sincerity when they walk in. I love going over the top for the people in my life. But to be honest, most of the time, it’s the little things that make the biggest and most lasting impact on those around us.

I wanted to write about creating awesome holiday traditions, and I will put up a second post this week just about that because I believe it is very important,  but as we approach Thanksgiving, I wanted to spend a today’s post focusing on thankfulness and being grateful to the people in our lives that make our worlds turn.  I promise, if you can devote some time to being grateful, your heart will fill up and you’ll be in the right place to start the holidays off in the best possible way.  If knowing that you are making someone’s day isn’t enough to motivate you to start showing more gratitude, maybe some of the studies listed on UC Berkley’s Greater Good Science Center will convince you of the the incredible things that can happen to your brain and in your life by practicing gratitude. This week I’ll provide you a very simple and practical way to spread thankfulness like wildfire this year.

I just hosted a Girls Night In: Holiday Edition at my place last Saturday night. Originally it was intended to be just a fall/holiday themed excuse to get all my closest girlfriends and girl-family together. But it quickly morphed into so much more. I didn’t spend a ton of time organizing or planning. I just invited my ladies through Facebook and marked the date on my calendar. All I knew was that I wanted to start the holidays off with a sense of togetherness.

I didn’t spend a ton of money, a few people brought food or wine and I put out some appetizers. (So far we are at less than $25). When I stopped at Target for party food, I found some very cute and festive stemless wine glasses touting “Tis the Season”. They were 2 for $3!!! I was expecting 8 girls so I bought enough glasses to give one to each one. Then there was a pack or 8 little mini holiday pumpkins all painted in festive glitters. That was $6. (We are at a whopping total of like $43 now). This is proof that it is not about the money in the end!

I went home and set the glasses out on the table and put one mini pumpkin next to each glass. None of these things are the important part. I then left the kids with my husband and went back to my desk for 30 minutes. I took out the attendee list and made a note next to each person’s name about the thing that I admire most about each person. Some of the people I have known since high school. That was easy. Others I didn’t know quite as well but I found something more than surface level to tell them I appreciated about them.

Then I took out some stationary I already had (a plain 4×6 card and blank envelope) and wrote a note to each person elaborating on the thing I had written about them in my notes. I thanked them for being a part of my life and let them know I was grateful for them.

I want to elaborate on this part because it can be really hard to write something meaningful about someone you don’t know well or when you are doing this for the first time. Here’s how I came up with what to write: Warning it gets a little deep.

  1. Think about the most memorable experience you have with the person. It should be a positive memory but most certainly doesn’t have to. This exercise is about a finding something to be grateful for so it is even more satisfying when it is not a easy memory.
  2. As you think about this memory, dig into what positive things you can take from it and how it relates to the way this person is. What positive light can you derive about who this person is?

Here is an example of a more difficult one. I have a friend that I have known for years but are not really very close. When I sat to write her card, I thought about my most memorable interaction with her. It was not a positive one. It was dramatic, dare a say traumatic and at the end of it, I felt judged and left the interaction feeling like my worst self. Not everything that made me feel that way was because of this friend but the situation was anything but positive. I remember her disappointment and how she verbalized it. I remember her being as upset as I was about the whole situation. When I brought this terrible memory into the light, what I saw now was how firmly she sits in her beliefs. She has a very strong moral compass and lives in her values every day.

Then I took this new discovery about her and looked at other experiences. I applied this to other situations I have seen her in. What I learned is that even when it is hard, especially when it is hard, she is incredibly capable of staying the course of doing what is right, even when the rest of us give in. She can be the voice of correction when we need to hear it but she also sets a great example for those of us who struggle with boundaries. These are the things I wrote to her about. These are the things that she needs to hear are valued. Sure, there have been times where, unchecked, these things have hurt me, but they are important and admirable qualities more often than not. She deserves for the people around her to recognizer this about her and to be thanked for setting this example for us.

  1. Write to the person about what you have discovered. You do not need to write about the memory itself, only what you have gleaned from it. You are trying to show them that you SEE them.  And by seeing them, you appreciate them. The best parts of them even in the worst situations. This is the most meaningful thing you can do for someone.

We didn’t even really do anything special for the rest of the time. No holiday crafts, no games, just a little wine in the new glasses I put out, food and conversation. Towards the end of the night, each woman took the card and read it to themselves. The looks on their faces with their teary eyes told me that the few minutes I spent on those tiny cards, was worth more to them than anything else in that moment.

When you think about it, we don’t often hear what people like about us, at least not something that goes way beyond the superficial stuff. What we think about ourselves and what others see is often very different but how often do we get that juxtaposition? When we can see ourselves through the eyes of someone else and know what they appreciate about you, it is SO validating and empowering and eye opening. Other people give us so much more grace than we give ourselves. This is why a tiny note can make you feel so loved and whole. I urge you; no I CHALLENGE you to do this.

DO it.
Identify 3 people in your life that mean a great deal to you and spell out for them that you are thankful for them. When they ask what this is all about, you can share this article with them and pass the challenge on. Please comment and let me know if you do this and how it went. How did you feel? What was their reaction? I can’t wait to hear!

Not ready to pull that trigger yet, start with a gratitude journal. This can have a profound impact on your life even if you never say anything out loud.

OWN it.
When you commit to living with a thankful heart you are more open to opportunities. Make this a habit by writing in a grateful journal daily. You can also recite things you are thankful for in the car when you’re driving alone.

LIVE it.
You want to change your life? Want to change someone else’s life?  Live thankfully. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philipians 4:6 People… if it is a big enough deal that the bible makes 114 references, it’s a big enough deal to follow this life changing

Make this change stick and you are on your way to reaping the physical benefits of living more gratefully. That’s not all, those around you will see your incredible changes and will want to join you. Not to mention, practicing thankfulness and gratitude regularly is a significant driver of happiness.

It only feels right for me to end by telling you how thankful I am for all of you reading this. As a new blogger and author, it is hard to put yourself out there when you don’t know how people will respond. So far you have all been so supportive and I can’t wait to see how this all develops!

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