U.S. President Barack Obama, right, pardons the national Thanksgiving turkey, "Courage" during the annual White House turkey pardoning ceremony. Photo: Reuters
Every year when Thanksgiving has come and gone - it's celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November - I always think, bugger, there's something I should have done. I'm not a big fan of American holidays encroaching on our year - and what is it with Halloween now? - but giving thanks is something we should all stop and do more often.
I love the idea of gathering family and friends around a dinner table or the barbie, serving food and drink to say thanks for the year, thanks for being part of my life, thanks to the people and things that matter. We don't do that enough. Being thankful and being grateful takes work. Acting on that is even more work.
I found a fun app called Unstuck, ''a new in-the-moment approach to personal growth for anyone who wants to live better every day''. OK, it's not everyone's cup of tea, a cute little cartoon life-coaching thing (aren't we all looking for that app that will change our lives?) that offers tips and know-how from ''a community of other people facing stuck moments''. And who hasn't felt stuck at times?
Stuck moments might include changes at home, or in relationships, or challenges at work. You can customise the app to suit your situation, and it leads you through a series of questions and actions to help you towards a solution. I like it, although not as much as Candy Crush (talk about stuck moments) and this is the most important thing, it gets you thinking.
So this week when an email arrived from Unstuck - ''How gratitude makes life better + 40 ways to get started'' - it got me thinking about the whole giving thanks and being grateful thing.
When put into practice, the email said, ''gratitude creates a virtuous circle. It fosters contentment, joy, respect, and connection to our world and the people in it.''
Isn't that what we're all searching for: contentment, connection, respect. Can it really be that simple?
I am grateful for family and friends and a roof over my head and a job I truly enjoy. I am grateful for my education and the situation that enables me to be giving my children one too.
I am grateful for the girls at work who make me run, for the kids who make me laugh, for a man who makes every possible and impossible all at the same time.
I am grateful for my health, that my family is healthy. I am grateful I can read good books, and watch bad television. I am grateful for that cup of tea at the end of the day.
But like most things in life, it's not about the being, it's about the doing. Not just being grateful, but acting on it, showing it. And here's some of the actions the email suggested.
Smile at someone.
Let someone cut in the grocery or coffee line if they seem like they really need it.
Tell someone she looks nice today.
Listen without distraction to a friend who needs listening to.
Invite a neighbour over for a meal or a glass of wine.
Write a note to someone's manager to report great service. (I actually did that this week and made the week, according to the email I received back, of the manager involved.)
None of those are too hard.
Other things it suggests include leaving voicemails instead of texting; being more enthusiastic; reaching out to people in your life for no reason at all; paying a favour forward; sharing your knowledge.
Time to get started folks.
With more help from Unstuck here's some other practical ideas.
Notice your day-to-day world from a point of view of gratitude and be amazed at all the goodness we take for granted.
Keep a gratitude journal. One thing a day.
Give at least one compliment daily.
When you're in a bad situation ask what can I learn? When I look back on this what will I be grateful for?
Sound genuinely happy to hear from the people who call you.
Become involved in a cause that is important to you.
And here's a good one.
Vow not to complain, criticise, or gossip for 10 days. If you slip, rally your will power and keep going. Notice the amount of energy you were spending on negative thoughts and actions.
In this the last week of school, where the calendar is crazy, and days will be long, I'm going to put this one into action as a test.
No complaining, criticism or gossip. Be gone negative energy.
I'd love to hear how it worked for you.