Thanksgiving Day is so close you can almost taste it. Literally. The turkey, the mashed potatoes, the cranberry sauce, not to mention the pies… if there’s one day on which a foodie can die without any regrets, it’s Thanksgiving. Many of us get so caught up in our gravy daydreams, however, that we run the risk of forgetting what Thanksgiving is really about: expressing gratitude for the people and things that we care about in our lives. And while expressing thanks is something that should be a daily activity, not one limited to a single day out of the year, if you feel like you’ve been left behind by the gratitude train this year, take heart in the fact that you can set the tone for the following months this week! What better time to start than a day DEDICATED to being thankful? Here are some activities that you can participate in this Thanksgiving and after that will motivate you to be more open about expressing your appreciation for the important things in life (AKA people — turkeys and green beans disappear in the blink of an eye, people last longer):

– If you have kiddos, why not kill two turkeys with one stone and teach them the importance of being grateful AND get cute decorations for your home? Cut out a bunch of different fall-leaf shapes on colored paper, and have the kids write things they are grateful for on them. Go ahead and join in, too. Paste or tape them to long lengths of yarn and string them all around the house as a constant reminder of the things that matter to you and your children. Or, if you’re feeling extra-artsy, cut out a wall-size tree, tape it up onto a blank wall, and attach the leaves to the branches (if you start this early enough next year, you can watch the tree grow over the month as you add more and more leaves every day).

– If you’re hosting a dinner this year, request that every person attending bring a non-perishable food item as a “cover charge” to the event. At the end of the night, you’ll have a good amount of food that you can donate to a food bank or homeless shelter the next day on behalf of you and your guests. It’ll remind you all to be thankful for the food you’re about to enjoy, since not everyone will be able to sit down to a hot meal on Thanksgiving. You can also contact your local homeless shelter and offer to volunteer your time a few hours a week or month.

– Another dinner/party idea: Write all your guests’ names on a slip of paper and place in a bowl or jar. Have each guest choose a slip, and say one thing they like or admire about the person whose name is on the slip. It’ll remind you and your guests that it’s important to celebrate the good/positive things in the people around you. Note: This only works if everyone knows each other — don’t try this with strangers.

– Every day before you leave for work, grab an extra protein bar or a piece of fruit, or make an extra sandwich, and put it in your bag. Give it to the first homeless person you see. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of homeless people aren’t asking for money so they can buy drugs or alcohol or anything like that. Buying food is often their highest priority, and seeing how grateful they are to receive food will probably make you think twice next time you want to throw away half of your burger at lunch.

– If you’re healthy enough to do so, donate blood, plasma or blood platelets as an expression of gratitude for your health and as a way to help others whose health isn’t the best at the moment. There is ALWAYS a shortage of blood in the United States. Some donation centers (plasma only) will offer you monetary compensation for donating; if you decide to donate plasma, take that compensation and donate it to a local charity or use it to buy groceries for someone in need.

What ideas do you have to show gratitude this Thanksgiving Day and beyond? Let us know in the comments. Have a delicious Thanksgiving, filled with good food and people and lots of gratitude!

By: Dariush Azimi

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