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9 ways to feel truly thankful for Thanksgiving

Make time this Thanksgiving to recognize all the blessings you have

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Citrus pumpkin meringue pie in Concord, N.H.

This Oct. 12, 2015, photo shows citrus pumpkin meringue pie in Concord, N.H.

Matthew Mead, Associated Press

It can be easy to overlook the true meaning of Thanksgiving when the tasty temptation of creamy mashed potatoes and a sweet slice of pumpkin pie awaits you. But the meaning of the holiday should also be recognized — it’s in the name! Thanksgiving is meant to be a time to gives thanks for your blessings and practice gratitude. If you can’t make time to be thankful during Thanksgiving, when will you ever?

Here are nine ways to be truly grateful this Thanksgiving.

1. Start a gratitude journal

According to a Harvard study, gratitude is associated with greater happiness, positive emotions and stronger relationships. Practice gratitude by documenting the things you feel thankful for in a gratitude journal each day. Write three to five things that you feel grateful for, whether they’re specific events of the day or something else. Make sure not to repeat ideas — challenge yourself by finding new things to be grateful for each day.

2. Try mindfulness

Mindfulness is maintaining a full presence with your thoughts, surroundings and body. Leaders at the University of California, Berkeley define mindfulness as paying attention to your thoughts and feelings without judging them, simply being comfortable with them. Mindfulness can be reached through meditation — take time to pause from the chaos of life and focus on your breathing.

As you practice mindfulness, find gratitude for the moment you live in — challenges and all. Jack Kornfield, a Buddhist teacher and bestselling author, described mindfulness as “loving awareness” to Berkeley students.

3. Eliminate your complaining

According to ABC affiliate WKBW, excessive complaining can lead to higher stress levels, shorten your life span and rewire your brain to think more negatively. Cutting down on your complaining can be difficult, but there are ways to curb the habit.

  • Look within yourself: What is really driving your negativity? Find the root of your frustration and weed it out.
  • Find positives: There are silver linings to every situation. Practice looking for the positive side to difficult situations and focus on those.
  • Make changes: If a problem is taking over your life, come up with solutions. For example, if you are frustrated with your job, look for one that is a better fit.

4. Donate your time, money or talents

Give others a reason to be thankful, and increase your own happiness in the process. Experts have described what is called a “helper’s high.” Giving to others (in the form of time, money or talents) produces endorphins in the brain and the giver experiences a mild version of a morphine high.

A 2017 study published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience found that there is a deep neural connection between giving and gratitude. During this Thanksgiving season, find ways to donate to those in need and increase your own gratitude.

5. Eliminate social media

Take a social media fast during the holidays. A JSTOR article reports that spending time on social media can lead to jealousy, envy and resentment. Envy is a feeling of pain about another person’s success or good fortune. Take the focus off what everyone else has this Thanksgiving, and give gratitude for all the blessings in your own life.

6. Mindfully connect with loved ones

Take time this Thanksgiving to appreciate the loved ones you have in your life. The holidays can be high-stress. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, 38% of people said their stress levels increased during the holidays, per U.S. News & World Report.

Don’t let holiday stress drive a wedge between you and your loved ones. Set aside time during Thanksgiving for the important relationships in your life. Remind your loved ones why you are grateful for their presence through quality time — it will probably reduce stress for both of you!

7. Go outside

Spending time outside has major health benefits. According to Forbes, going outside and connecting with nature builds resilience and offers hope. If you aren’t sure how to spend time outside, try going on a walk, participating in a turkey trot or planning a turkey bowl with friends or family.

8. Cook something from scratch

If there’s ever a time to test out your cooking skills, it is for your Thanksgiving feast. Select a new (or old) recipe and cook a dish from scratch. Try out a familiar family recipe or look for something unique you are excited to try. You could even host a pie-making contest or bring a neighbor a share of whatever you choose to make.

9. Extend your social circle

Get out of your bubble for the holidays! It can be difficult to expand your social network, but there’s no such thing as too many friends. When you put out an air of gratitude, people will be drawn to your thankful attitude and making new friends will become easier, reports Science Daily. Try hosting a Friendsgiving and ask everyone to invite someone new. Spend time getting to know all your new guests!