This Thanksgiving, Remember to Really Give Thanks.

Unless you have been living under a rock (but not Plymouth Rock—I couldn’t pass it up!), you know that tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Take a moment and consider what you’re focused on. Maybe it’s a delicious turkey dinner, a football game, or a long-awaited Black Friday sale. Or perhaps you’re fixated on the number of relatives who will soon be descending on your house and all of the preparations you need to take care of. But have you also spent any time focusing on the real “point” of this holiday—the things in your life for which you’re grateful?

It seems to me that for most of us in America, the “thanks” in “Thanksgiving” has gotten lost in parades, food, and commercialism. On this holiday—and throughout the year, in fact—most of us are less focused on what we have to be thankful for and more focused on what we want and how we can get more. And guess what? This attitude is making us miserable. In fact, according to a 2007 Reuter’ article, a study done by Italian researchers found that Americans are less happy today than they were thirty years ago.  We’re so fixated on what we lack and on what’s going wrong that there’s no room left for us to enjoy all of the blessings that we have.

My friends, I’d like to challenge all of you to change your attitudes and really celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow…and then carry that attitude of gratitude with you throughout the year. Trust me, it’s for your own good. Grateful people are happy people, and they’re also healthier—25 percent healthier, in fact, according to studies—than their unappreciative peers.

Here’s a starting point: Tomorrow, as you’re eating Thanksgiving dinner with your loved ones, think about everyone and everything that have made this meal possible. Your ancestors, whose hard work laid the foundation for your own life. Our nation’s Founding Fathers, whose resolve and principles allowed us to live in the greatest democracy on earth. Past and present veterans and service members, who have put themselves in harm’s way—and even made the ultimate sacrifice—to protect us. And those are just a few starting points for a feeling of gratitude. I’m sure you’ll think of many, many more, like your health, your house, the fact that there’s food on the table, and of course the love of your family and friends, etc.

Once you begin to consciously notice all of the great things in your life, and once you realize that you can’t take full credit for the existence of any of them, you’ll consistently feel more grateful, privileged, and humble. You might even begin to notice that you feel silly for dwelling on the fact that your neighbor was able to buy a new car this year while you weren’t.

As gratitude becomes a more prominent part of your thought processes, verbalize as much of your thanks as you can. Tell the people in your life how much you appreciate them. Why not start tomorrow with the family members who are sharing Thanksgiving dinner with you? I can tell you from experience, when you begin to connect with others in this manner, your whole way of viewing the world will change. You will feel so much more fulfilled, blessed, privileged, and happy. And you’ll look back on this Thanksgiving as one of the best holidays/turning points of your life!

Beat Up or Build Up: Choose to Be Easier on Yourself

In an earlier blog post, I talked about how we all have the power to choose happiness for ourselves and I gave a few short examples of what that might look like in your life. I don’t want to stop there, though. Being able to make choices that increase your happiness is such an important concept to understand that I’d like to devote my next few blog posts along the way to elaborating on it.

In all situations there are responses that will make you feel better and more positive, and responses that will only increase your stress and unhappiness.

For example, let’s see how we can choose to be easier on ourselves after making a mistake:

Let’s say you’re giving a presentation at work. You feel fully prepared and you know what you’re talking about. The first part of the presentation goes smoothly, and the few jitters you felt at the beginning have been entirely replaced by confidence. When you look up from your notes to make eye contact with your coworkers, though, you lose your place in your notes. There is a long pause while you frantically search for the next point you wanted to make. You are a bit shaken, but you carry on and finish out your presentation without any other problems.

Choose this: Focus on all of the things that went well in the presentation. When people tell you that you did a nice job, accept the compliments with a genuine smile and thank them. Tell yourself, Overall, the presentation was very good, but next time I should organize my notes a bit better. Then you get to work on your next big project!

NOT that: You fixate on the pause during your presentation and disregard everything else. When people tell you that you did a nice job, you respond, “That’s nice of you to say, but I could just kick myself for messing up.” Throughout the rest of the week, you continue to tell yourself, I am a failure.

Why? One of the keys to happiness is choosing to be easier on yourself. Why let the one thing you did wrong ruin the hundreds of things you’ve done right? It is human nature to focus on the negative, but you have the power to change your thought process. As long as you learn from your mistakes, you should accept them as a part of life—you’re not the only person who has ever messed up! Plus, the mistakes you make usually pale in comparison to your accomplishments. Happy people acknowledge their achievements and keep their mistakes in perspective.

I think it’s a shame that people tend to torture themselves for not being perfect—but I understand why they do it. It took me a very long time to accept the fact that I am human too, and thus fallible. The truth is, we all make mistakes, and I’ve learned that it makes more sense to laugh at and appreciate your own humanity, fallibility, and mix-ups. Believe me, no one cares about that little mistake you made in your speech (or any other minor slip-ups that might occur!), so don’t allow it to dominate your whole week and infect your outlook with negativity. We all must learn to be our own best cheerleaders, building ourselves up every day—not the reverse!