Thanksgiving. Mindfulness. Actually they are one and the same. One is just a day long.
The original Thanksgiving in 1621 brought together the Pilgrims, who were struggling to live off the land and the Wampanoag tribe.
Staying alive made the pilgrims mindful.
They came together to celebrate the Pilgrim colony’s first successful harvest. The original Pilgrim holiday was mostly celebrated by multiple days of prayers. We’ve come to know it for the dinner that occurred during the holiday between the European colonists and Native Americans.
The Pilgrim’s feast and recovery from malnutrition and illness was made possible with help from the Wampanoag. They showed them how to grow crops successfully and avoid dangerous plants.
The cold breath of death the colonists once felt on their necks likely heightened their sense of appreciating their health, being connected to life, each other and those that helped them. In short, they learned to savor the gifts and blessings they had been given.
The mindfulness of the feast is evident in today’s Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving today is a moment to take inventory of family, loved ones and express a sense of grace for the things we have. As many businesses and stores close and commerce goes silent, it’s a day that serves as the pause button on our often hectic, stressful and competitive lives.
For a few moments, work deadlines and the rest of our troubles fall away into forgetfulness. It leaves us the opportunity to experience a state of mindfulness and the ability to focus on the things that are truly important to us.
When I would spend Thanksgiving with family, it always brought me back and helped me savor what really matters.
A simple cup of coffee with my dad thanksgiving morning to just talk or watching the football game together was worth more than a company bonus. It made me remember how simple life can really be, the joy of being close to those you love, and just how simple and natural it is to enjoy the little pleasures life distracts you from.
It’s so easy to let those mindful moments slip away.
In fact, by the time you’re having that second helping of turkey, some families are already thinking ahead to the future. They’re feeling the rising anxiety and blood pressure of getting in line for the doorbuster sales that start as early as 7 or 8 pm that night. Not to mention the full day of shopping and scurrying for the bargains awaiting on Black Friday.
With hordes of Black Friday shoppers crawling over each other at the local Walmart like a zombie scene from World War Z, it’s clear Thanksgiving collapses from mindful pause and connective joy to the frantic hustle to acquiring more things and trinkets to fill the unmet needs and voids in our life.
Why? In most cases, we rush to buy things because 1) we’re supposed to-Christmas is coming 2) your children’s holiday wishes 3) an excuse to treat yourself 4) keeping up with the Christmas Joneses.
Outside of seeing your children light up or re-connect with the spirituality of the season, is the day after Thanksgiving really about finding happiness? Or is it about throwing away the current state of happiness and mindlessly seeking consumption and satisfaction to ironically seek to regain happiness through a gift-wrapped toaster or InstaPot?
Thanksgiving. A mindful moment. Quickly lost to mindless consumerism.
While, we should enjoy the holidays, there’s no reason to lose the joy and spirit and mindfulness of Thanksgiving after Thanksgiving. In fact, Thanksgiving, or being thankful, is something that we should strive for every day. The mindfulness and sense of grace where you feel the joy in what you already have can stay with you when you go back to the office on Monday.
A contented, prolonged state of grace that can give you greater happiness. Remember…
“Happiness is not about getting the things we want. It’s being content with the things we already have.”
What you give to yourself by being mindful and thankful.
Like the original dinner, Thanksgiving is about having gratitude. Mindfulness is about experiencing gratitude. Gratitude is giving thanks and appreciating the things you already have in life and how blessed, strong and lucky we truly are. Something we forget when society and everyday life often has us comparing our life to our immediate peers or prods us to focus and struggle on meeting fleeting or irrelevant markers of happiness (job titles, money, cars).
All that is distracting. But when you step back, look at what you have, what you’ve accomplished, you realize that you have so much to be grateful for. Including…
- Someone to love
- Game of Thrones
Not to mention your birth. As Warren Buffet once said, if you are an American, you’ve already hit the lottery.
- If your household income is $10,000 a year, you are wealthier than 84 percent of the world
- If you have money in the bank, or wallet and some spare change, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy
- If you woke up with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive this week
- If you can read this blog post, you are more fortunate than the 3 billion people who can’t read at all
Without having mindfulness through gratefulness, it’s easy to keep feeling anxious or lacking. Instead, you just focus on what’s ahead or what you don’t have. That comes at the expense of not looking back and ignoring all the positives and successes in our life.
That doesn’t mean you can’t desire or want to be better. Nothing wrong with wanting more, but with gratefulness you can feel the joy and use it to move even further to be more.
Three quick ways to experience mindfulness through gratefulness.
- Appreciate the little things.
When you inventory your life, you’ll probably realize you have a lot to feel happiness and gratitude for.
Take a moment each day and think about three or more things you are grateful for. Picture each blessing, treasured person or accomplishment in your mind and how it makes you feel.
As part of my mental “boot up,” a meditation and visualization routine I do every morning, there is a moment where I visualize having coffee with my dad at a Panera in Ohio we used to go to. I used to love the way he used to give me advice and I remember smiling at him as we talked. Even as a smiled, I would often think to myself, as my dad was getting older, that a day would come where this amazing moment won’t happen again. That’s why, even today, I remember that time as a gift. And I remember his insights on business and life as invaluable.
Remembering will emotionally remind and inspire you by reliving the value and rewards you receive from those moments and special people. It will also remind you of what you’re capable of achieving.
Try to repeat this everyday. As your brain builds and strengthens neural connections and habits by repetition, it retrains your brain to seek, remember and appreciate additional things to be grateful for. As you feel more grateful, you’ll feel happier with your life.
- Reach out to those who matter.
Nothing makes us focus on gratitude than focusing on relationships that offer true value and connection. Family and true friends are unique from most people in your life. As truer, deeper connections, you both tend to leap-frog over the superficial games and give true love and tough love. Because they know you, family and friends tend to help you feel grateful by keeping you grounded and keeping you real.
- Give of yourself. Invest in others.
When we give to others, especially those in need, we are rewarded by being able to appreciate and be grateful for the things we have. I’ve been involved in Christmas gift programs where we go to homes to deliver presents to underserved kids.
Each time I was involved, I couldn’t help but remember the effortless luxury I had as a child of being able to point to a any gift I wanted in a Christmas catalog or TV commercial and simply expect Santa Claus to have it under a well-decorated tree Christmas day (batteries included). As I or you give to others not as fortunate or didn’t get the same breaks in life, it’s a win/win for happiness. Giving feels good helping other get a little closer to their own happiness and gratitude and you realize where you are in life and your accomplishments.
- Compete for and acquire more from a place of gratitude.
When you compete from having a sense of gratitude, you’re driven with the need to build on the values you have, your accomplishments come from a place that make you strong rather than seeking greatness from a place simply trying to fill weakness and insecurities.