An Unexpected Gratitude Practice For Thanksgiving (Or For Anytime): A Gift That Truly Keeps on Giving

A few Novembers ago, I found myself feeling quite upset and disappointed around Thanksgiving. There were a number of reasons for this...our family Thanksgiving tradition had abruptly ended along with a friendship, a new wave of mourning my mom had come over me, my children were driving me particularly crazy and so on...

And while I knew that is was alright not to be looking forward to Thanksgiving, what didn't feel alright was that I was feeling brittle and disconnected. I even found myself getting quite irritated by all the newsletters and articles I was seeing around me on the theme of gratitude. Not because I was being inundated by this message, but rather because I am a big believer in the power of authentic gratitude and at that particular time I was feeling divorced from my own connection to it.

As I sat on my bed the day before Thanksgiving, feeling at a loss for how to feel reconnected, I remembered it was one of my dear friend's birthdays. So I took out my phone and began to create a voice-memo birthday love-note for her.

I closed my eyes and imagined that my friend was right in front of me and all of these words started pouring out of my heart for her in terms of what I wished for her for this new year of her life. And as I was doing this, I felt this subtle yet potent shift in my own energy.

In connecting with my love and hopes for her, I felt more connected to my own heart and also to hers...which in turn, made me feel a lot less brittle. I even began to feel a spark of reconnection to my own desires for myself. And within moments, I began to somehow feel less alone (and yes, you can feel alone even when you are surrounded by love...which I was).

As I sent my friend her birthday voice memo through a text, this idea flashed through my mind and filled me with a sudden bolt of energy. What if I sent more voice memos to more people in my life? But only this time, it wouldn't be birthday notes, it would be gratitude notes.

For a few moments I felt nothing but joy around this idea. Which was immediately and all too-humanly followed by receiving a visit from what I call the "Dementors from the Land of Overthinking" (yes, "Harry Potter" runs deep in our family's psyche) started to take over my mind.

My Dementor thoughts went something like this, I imagine you might relate...

  • "What if the people I don't send these to get offended?" To which I quickly found myself saying that I don't want such high-maintenance relationships anyway and that this wasn't a popularity contest.

  •  "I'm the one feeling alone, why must I be the one to reach out to others, I have so many other things I have to do to get ready for Thanksgiving?" To which I heard a voice within me say..."give the love you want to receive and you will be fuller."

  • "This could be embarrassing to send out." To which I heard Brené Brown's voice of wisdom in my head say " Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage."

With my overthinking Dementors quieted down, over the next hour or so, I created and sent a flurry of voice memos out via text message to whoever came into my mind and felt right to send one to.

It amazed me how easy it all flowed and how focusing on what I loved about someone else and how I was grateful for them, continued to connect me deeper to the feeling of connection to those people and also to myself. In other words, I was now connected to the actual feelings I was desiring to feel but that were before feeling ever-so-elusive.

It's one thing to know you love people and that they love you, but it's another thing to really feel it.

Over the next few hours, I received text after text from the people who I sent the voice memos to. The common themes in these responses were an alchemy of how they were surprised, moved and grateful to receive these unexpected gifts.

It was also interesting to me that some of the people who came into my mind to send a voice memo to, were somewhat surprising to me for various reasons. But when I received their responses back I realized why I felt guided to send one to them.

In these instances, I received the secondary gifts of hearing firsthand how what we see on the surface with people isn't necessarily what's going on inside of them. And while I know this so well intellectually, that November evening when I was falling into that unconscious trap of feeling alone in my discontent, I was instantly reminded that I wasn't. I was also powerfully reminded that everyone wants to be seen and heard...everyone.

It also simply felt good to get out of my own internal chatter and to do something that made someone else's heart happy. In turn, this made me smile. And while whatever was bothering me was still there, it did somehow drift more into the background of my mind. And now in the foreground of my mind there was a focus on what I felt truly grateful for.
Flash forward to the past few weeks of hearing so many beloved clients and friends struggle with the upcoming holidays...struggle to feel connected....struggle with their expectations, disappointments, hopes and fears around this time of year.

And it came to me again, like a bolt of energy, that maybe this idea would be one that would help your heart to do or simply to read about. Surely you will help the heart of those who you choose to send a gratitude love-message or note to.

So if you feel that call in your heart to do so, below are some suggested do's and don'ts for this gratitude practice...


Suggested Do's:

  1. Do send a gratitude voice memo, pick up the phone, write an email or a text. And yes of course, you can always tell a person in-person how you feel. But don't let the method of transmitting your message delay you "sending" it or have you fall into a perfectionism/procrastination trap where you don't do it at all.

  2. Do listen to your intuition and your heart about who you want to send it to you.

  3. If you are sending a voice memo, do keep it relatively short (a few minutes long) as it might not go through if it's too large of a file to text to someone.

  4. Do this practice whenever you want to, it doesn't have to be before or on Thanksgiving, it truly can be anytime. But if this time is challenging for you, this practice could lift up your heart and others.

  5. Do read over my "Suggested Dont’s” below and let it help you make this an empowering and nourishing exercise but not an overworked or stressful one. In other words, know the difference between what really feels good to do versus what actions are ultimately fear based.

 Suggested Dont’s:

  1. If on the other side of you doing this voice memo you are expecting something in return, don’t do it. It muddies up the energy and often leads to disappointment or worse.
    So if you want someone to express their love, appreciation, feelings to you and you think this is your way to get them to do everyone a favor (including yourself) and please don’t.

  2. If someone particular comes into your head/heart to send this to, but it makes you feel nervous or anxious to do so, ask yourself some clarifying questions.

    • Am I anxious or nervous because I really want to send it to them, but I'm not sure how they will react...or it makes me feel vulnerable...or am I nervous because we haven’t spoken in a while?

    • Am I anxious or nervous because I’m really doing this because my intention is that I want something from this person in return. If I take that out of the equation, do I still want to send it to this person? In other words, don't give to get.

    • Am I anxious about sending this to a particular person because I know this wouldn’t be a healthy thing for me to do because it’s healthier for me to have a boundary with this person and/or to limit or not have communication with that person.

      For instance, that toxic/unhealthy romantic relationship or friendship you are working on extricating yourself from. Or that family member you are always trying to get approval or appreciation from. In this case, honor what's healthy for you and what you want to expand in your life and don't give-in to the self-sabotaging desire to send it to them.

  3. Don’t stress about doing this or add this to your already long holiday to-do list. This is something to want to do...not another thing that makes you feel burdened or responsible for other people’s happiness.

  4. Don’t re-listen to your voice memo (ok...sometimes listening to it once can be useful if your gut tells you to) and keep re-recording it. This is not something to rehearse or another exercise in perfectionism...let it come straight from your heart as there is often divine grace to doing so.

  5. If any part of your intuition (not your fear, but your intuition or gut) tells you not to do this...then don’t. To thine own self be true. Maybe this is a time you need to strengthen your boundaries and doing this feels like the wrong timing.

  6. Reconsider if you should send a voice memo to a particular person, if really what is needed in that relationship is an apology and not a gratitude memo. For instance, you might be hiding behind sending a gratitude note as a way to avoid a harder but more necessary conversation. In that case, perhaps its time to have that conversation instead of putting it off.

  7. Don't assume that person already knows how you feel or that they are doing so well in their life that it wouldn't mean much to them. You would be surprised who might need to receive that message at that particular time. It can mean more than you know to them.

  8. Don't jump to assumptions or hurt/anger if you don't get a response from a person you sent a gratitude message to. You don't know what is really going on in their life and a lack of response might not be personal at all. Also it's mercury retrograde, so there is bound to be disruptions in communication and technology.

  9. Don't put pressure on yourself to send these to a certain quantity of people you know. Quantity isn't quality. And this isn't a party list where you should be worrying about who gets left out. It's a spontaneous act of love...


What's your favorite gratitude practice? I would love to add more great ideas to my gratitude toolbox. And if you decide to do a gratitude practice this holiday week let me know how it goes over in the comments below.

Wishing you much love, nourishment and peace this Thanksgiving and always...

With gratitude and love,