Traditions are a funny thing. They are hard to break. And sometimes they are even harder to stop thinking about.
Today, Thanksgiving in the US, I would usually be in the last stages of full-on planning mode, ready to host my closest, dearest friends this weekend for a belated Thanksgiving dinner, even though I am not an American. A very large turkey – cooked on the Weber BBQ, as was my father’s tradition; sweet potato casserole and green bean casserole – two typically American traditions I have adopted; roast potatoes not mash – a tradition I have added as they are my preference. But today I am not thinking about all that food. I am thinking about the tradition I started years ago when I began hosting Thanksgiving dinners in my London flat: going round the table and saying what you are grateful for – what it is you are giving thanks for.
The first year I did this, I sprung it on the guests and the colour drained from my English friends’ faces at the prospect. Eating sweet potato in a casserole was one thing, but this was a step too far. I nearly had a mutiny. Now, I pre-warn people this is coming so they can prepare.
Over the years people have moved me to tears with the sentiments shared. And despite most people’s hesitation at the task, it is always met with warmth, shared emotion and a feeling of connection.
Research has proven that gratitude makes you happier – the act of keeping a simple gratitude journal is enough to move the needle. I have a chalkboard wall in my kitchen and I try to write one thing on it every day that I am grateful for. I don’t think too hard about it, and it can be something tangible – pizza – or silly – the church bells – or deep – my work ethic. No one else sees it – other than my dog – but I see it. And it makes me happy that I find something every day.
I’m not hosting Thanksgiving this year, so in the absence of friends round the table, here’s a challenge for you: find a moment today, maybe while the kettle is boiling, and find something you are grateful for, and ponder it for a bit.
And maybe do the same tomorrow. Who knows, it might just become a tradition.