The spirit of Thanksgiving is more than just eating a big meal and watching football; this holiday season is about expressing gratitude for the people, places, and things in your life that you often take for granted. A chance to slow down and consider the abundance in your life, Thanksgiving is a time for community involvement and provides countless opportunities to resonate at a vibration of appreciation and generosity, rather than one of consumption and personal gain.
While the primary people you are grateful for might be your family members, consider the entirety of your social circuit as you count your blessings. As research in positive psychology has found, our social relationships are intimately linked to our happiness and life satisfaction, so why not go the extra mile (or block) to offer your gratitude to your local community this holiday season?
Here are 10 ways you can give thanks to your community this Thanksgiving.
1. Say More Than “Thank You”
Sure, it is polite to say “thank you” to the people you engage with over the course of the day, but if you’re honest with yourself, you might have said a lot of those thank-you’s automatically, and without much heart.
In the spirit of giving thanks, set the intention to truly appreciate the people who help you out in your daily life. Telling the woman who checks you in at your yoga studio how much you appreciate her smiling face every morning shows her you are paying attention. Acknowledging how reliable your deliveryman is, lets him know you appreciate what he does. Telling your drugstore clerk that her friendliness and patience are part of what keeps bringing you back to that store will likely make her day. Choose something specific and offer just one or two sentences of appreciation to the recipient. Notice the little things you appreciate about the people in your neighborhood and spread good energy to the people receiving your thanks.
2. Write a Thank-You Note to Someone You Haven’t Properly Thanked
One of those most powerful practices in positive psychology is the gratitude letter and gratitude visit. The practice involves writing a letter thanking someone to whom you have never fully expressed your gratitude. It could be a teacher, a friend, or coworker, or anyone else you want to thank. For this practice, choose someone who is alive and living in a location where you could deliver the letter yourself.
Studies have shown that writing and delivering gratitude letters increase happiness significantly for the person writing the letters. So not only will the person receiving your note feel appreciated, you will feel happier too! Spend 15 minutes writing a gratitude letter and experience long-lasting results.
3. Make Eye Contact with the People You Pass on the Street
A few days after moving to my new town, I was walking my dog and passed a gentleman on the street. He smiled warmly and said, “Good morning!” with solid eye contact. I walked on thinking, “Wow, the people in this neighborhood are so friendly! What a great place to live.”
Now, every time I pass someone on the street, I think about how I have the ability to influence how the neighbors feel about their town. Your kindness to the people you pass on the street can have a positive ripple effect. Eye contact signifies that you see people, and at the deepest level, everyone wants to be seen. So, use this as a challenge to test your skills making eye contact. Practice connecting in those quick and seemingly insignificant moments rather than turning on your tunnel vision. Thank the people you pass for existing, simply by acknowledging them.
4. Share Extras with Your Neighbors
Have extra cookies from the batch you made for your kid’s bake sale? Take a plate to your neighbor or look for local food donations. Are the flowers in your garden blooming in abundance? Clip a few and put them in a small mason jar on your neighbor’s porch. When extra apples fall from your tree, share the bounty.
All of these types of actions spread good fortune and good spirits with the people who live closest to you. Thank them for being good neighbors by doing things the old-fashioned way, and build a sense of community by sharing your wealth with others.
5. Thank Your Top Five
Besides your family and friends, who are the top five people who have an influence on your daily life? Now is the time to thank them. Write thank-you notes on cheerful stationery, and pass them on to your yoga teacher, your dog sitter, your children’s teachers, and the receptionist in your office building.
When crafting these thank-you’s, think about what life would be like without these people, and highlight how they contribute to your sense of ease and well-being. These five people weave the web of your life and make your life richer and easier. Now it’s time to thank them for it.
6. Thank Your Local Small Businesses by Posting Your Love for Them Online
One way you can show your gratitude for your community this Thanksgiving is by supporting your local small businesses with your money and your praise. If you haven’t given them a five-star rating on the top search engines, take five minutes to write them a review or donate to their website. Tag them in your social media posts and spread the good word. The owners will always appreciate organic publicity, so be generous with your praise, and keep small businesses alive and thriving.
7. Write an Old-School Thank-You Note or Card
In this age of text messages and nonstop email threads, getting a handwritten note in the mail is almost as rare as a unicorn sighting. Find some cute stationery or a card, and send a love note via snail mail. Your note will light up someone’s day, and you will also receive a happiness boost by doing something kind for someone else. Extra points for including a printed photo in the envelope!
8. Decorate Your Home with Festive and Gratitude-Themed Decor
Does your front yard or stoop look welcoming? Put your decorating skills to the test. Consider a flag or sign that spreads happiness and cheer. Plant some fresh flowers. Display a happy pumpkin or two. Help your street look festive by cleaning up your patio and improving your curb appeal. By treating your yard with love and respect, you indirectly honor your neighbors and end up helping the community by adding to the beauty all around.
9. Support a Local Charity with Your Time, Energy, or Money
Being grateful means taking nothing for granted. Show your support for a cause you believe in by sharing your abundance in the form of time, energy, and donations. Look for local churches or services that provide Thanksgiving meals for those in need. Participate in volunteer opportunities and spend an afternoon at your local community center helping kids read, or take some time to clean and walk dogs at a nearby animal shelter. Every community has nonprofit organizations that are contributing to those who need it, so give thanks by getting involved in local activities and fundraisers.
10. Invite Extra Guests to Your Thanksgiving Feast
You can literally give thanks to your community by inviting people to your Thanksgiving dinner. Welcome your friends or coworkers who have nowhere to go. Host a “Friendsgiving” so no one has to spend the holiday alone. Invite your elderly neighbor to join in your celebration feast. Sharing delicious food and companionship will feed your community, body, and soul.
There is no end to how generous you can be with the members of your community. As the saying goes, we need to be the change we want to see in the world. You have the opportunity to make someone’s day, week, or even year simply by acknowledging their impact and value in your community. After all, that is what Thanksgiving is truly all about.
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