Thanksgiving is coming up very soon! We are excited for all the turkey, stuffing, vegetables, casseroles, cranberry sauce, and of course the pumpkin pie. But don’t forget the attitude behind this holiday. We celebrate Thanksgiving to show gratitude for all the good things we have been given.

It can be easy to focus on the negative things in life, which is why being thankful and recognizing the good things is so important. Scientific research supports the common sense that thankfulness and wellness go together like pumpkin pie and whipped cream. In fact, one scientific review found that gratitude has a positive impact on heart health,¹ while another study showed that gratitude is related to decreased risks for major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and suicidal ideation.² There’s no doubt that thankfulness is good for you.

We have gathered seven fun ideas to help you and your loved ones give thanks this Thanksgiving. Check out these ideas in the slideshow below, and try adding one to your holiday celebrations this year. Happy Thanksgiving, from all of us at RAYSAC!

Appreciation Hot Seat

 

Write down the names of every person at the table on pieces of paper. Randomly give each person one piece of paper with someone else’s name. Then everyone takes turns saying something about they appreciate about that person. This is a great way to let loved ones know that they are important to you!

Tip: Even if a guest does not know their person very well, honest compliments can be very meaningful. Try something simple, like “I really enjoyed that funny story you told” or “Thanks for bringing this delicious pie!”

Thankful "Guess Who?"

Have each person write something they are thankful for on a folded piece of paper. Put each person’s paper in a bowl and pass it around the table so that everyone picks a random paper. Then, everyone takes turns reading what is written on their paper and tries to guess who wrote it.

Tip: Be as specific as possible when you write what you are thankful for. It would be hard for the person guessing if several players wrote that they were thankful for “family”!

Gratitude Centerpiece

 

Add something you can write on to the centerpiece of your dinner table. It could be something like a pumpkin or some paper leaves. Have each dinner guest write something they are thankful for with a felt tip marker. This will turn your Thanksgiving dinner decoration into a reminder of everything you are grateful for!

Tip: Have your family members add one thing each day leading up to Thanksgiving. You might be surprised at how many things you have when it’s finished.

Thankful Treasure Hunt

 

This one is great for kids! Have each player make a list of things they are thankful for. For the treasure hunt, it helps to write physical things instead of abstract things like “my health” or “good grades”. Then each player searches to find the items on their gratitude list. Or for a bigger challenge, have the players find things from other players’ lists!

Tip: You can also suggest gratitude items for your kids to look for. See if they can find something that reminds them of a happy memory, something that makes them feel good about who they are, and something that makes them feel safe.

Thanksgiving Tablecloth

 

Find a large, white tablecloth or a sheet of wrapping paper. Have everyone write things they are thankful for on the tablecloth with a felt tip marker. This is a great reminder of everything you are thankful for, and you can keep adding to it every Thanksgiving!

Tip: Once the tablecloth is full or when you are not using it, you can hang it on a wall in your home. It makes for a great decoration and a reminder to be grateful year-round.

"The Thankies" Awards Ceremony

 

Think of sincere reasons that you appreciate each person in your family or group. Decide on an award title to give each person, such as “Best Hugs,” “Best Encourager,” or “Tastiest Snacks,” and print a certificate for each award. On Thanksgiving, have an awards ceremony where each person receives their certificate. You can make it as casual or as formal as you want!

Tip: Instead of certificates, you can also buy or make trophies for the awards. Try golden turkey trophies, or any design you want!

Thanksgiving Show and Tell

Ask your dinner guests to bring an item that represents something they are thankful for. It could be a favorite book, a photograph, a letter, a favorite toy, or anything meaningful to them. When everyone is together, have each person show their item and share why they are thankful.

Tip: For an extra challenge, see if each person can remember what everyone before them said!

References:

1. Cousin, L., Redwine, L., Bricker, C., Kip, K., & Buck, H. (2021). Effect of gratitude on cardiovascular health outcomes: a state-of-the-science review. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 16(3). 348-355. doi: 10.1080/17439760.2020.1716054

2. McGuire, A.P., Fogle, B.M., Tsai, J., Southwick, S.M., & Pietrzak, R.H. (2021). Dispositional gratitude and mental health in the U.S. veteran population: Results from the National Health and Resilience Veterans Study. Journal of Psyhiatric Research, 135. 279-288. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2021.01.020

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