11/22/2012 02:27 am ET Updated Jan 21, 2013

10 Things to Be Thankful For

"We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude." -- Cynthia Ozick

Is it just me, or did all of the election ads just get replaced with things-you-need-to-buy-for-Christmas ads? I remember when people didn't decorate their houses for Christmas until after Thanksgiving. Some of my neighbors have had decorations up for weeks now -- long before Halloween. I also remember when stores were actually closed on Thanksgiving. Now it's an opportunity for people to get their early-bird Black Friday shopping done and/or prioritize where they need to be at 3:00 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving. If you are one of those people, fine. I know there's a lot of money to be saved by getting there at 3:00 a.m.

But do me a favor. When you get home, take a few minutes to reflect on why we have a Thanksgiving holiday in the first place. Think about the name for a minute: "Thanks Giving." Yep, we're supposed to be giving thanks -- and not for that great deal we just got on the new mini iPad. You see, the first Thanksgiving in 1621 was motivated by a particularly great harvest. The Pilgrims were giving thanks to God for the food that was to sustain them through the harsh winter.

Now that we get our food from Fred Meyer, Rosauer's, or Walmart, we often forget that many people were involved in bringing our food to the table. So take a little time this Thanksgiving to send a quiet "thank you" to them and to anyone else who's done something special for you lately. Or maybe give thanks to someone you've been taking for granted. Or -- deep breath -- maybe think about it the day after Thanksgiving and the day after that. And the day after that.

You see, years ago I started keeping a gratitude journal. Each night I write down at least 10 things that I am thankful for. There are a lot of repeat entries -- things like good home-cooked food, my friends and family, comfortable shoes, and a comfy bed. But there are also random things that draw my attention as I reflect each night. The shooting star I saw on my morning run. The nice person who held the door open for me when I was loaded down with books. The first snowfall.

Ending the day in gratitude is a nice practice. It's far better than ending your day thinking about what your colleague said during the staff meeting that really made you mad. Or about all of the things you need to do tomorrow. Writing in my gratitude journal leaves me feeling uplifted -- even on the days when it seems like a gargantuan task to come up with 10 whole things to be grateful for.

So give it a try tonight. And tomorrow. And maybe even the night after. You may find you really enjoy it -- that maybe you've got a whole lot in your life to be grateful for. Maybe, like me, you'll find that coming up with 10 things to be thankful for puts you in a calm, peaceful state and sets you up for a good night's sleep. And that's something we can all be grateful for.

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