By Barton Goldsmith Tribune News Service.
I have a large sign above my chair that spells out "GRATITUDE," and only the clients on the couch can see it. It serves as a constant reminder that no matter how harsh what we are going through is at the moment, finding something to be grateful for will make things a little bit easier.
This time of year, we take a day to gather with those we love and do our best to say thanks for all we have and for the friends and family who are sitting around the table. This is my favorite holiday, because you can feel the love. Even if people get a little miffed at each other, it all seems to fade away when the table is set and we all hold hands and connect through our gratitude.
I do my best to maintain an attitude of gratitude as much as possible throughout the year, and sometimes it isn't easy. When there has been hardship and loss, it can be hard to pull out of that mood and embrace the good. It doesn't mean you are defective in any way; in fact, it's quite normal.
It's also normal to forget to feel grateful when things are going well. We don't usually think about it. Those thoughts of wanting to feel better about life mostly come into play when things aren't going so well. I do strongly believe that keeping gratitude close to your heart, especially when things are tough, can only make your life a little smoother.
Thanksgiving serves as a reminder of what's most important in life: the people we love and who care for us. If you don't have your own family around, find some people that you want to share this day with and simply invite them or yourself to be part of this year's Gathering of Gratitude. This Thanksgiving, I am hosting a friend's family at my home. Relatives and friends will be flying in from all over, the house will be full, and I will get to feel the joy that will be bouncing off of everyone in attendance.
Many folks who don't have family around for the holiday, and even some people who do, choose to spend the day feeding and helping those less fortunate, and this is a wonderful way to fulfill what this holiday is all about. Consider taking your family to a place where you can volunteer to feed the homeless. Doing this will teach your kids about how lucky they are, and you will feel it, too.
Something else I like to do is throw an "orphan's Thanksgiving" for my friends who have other plans on the actual holiday. The day before turkey day, I open my house and dining room so we can all get together and just have some extra love come our way. Some people come on both days, and I love the company and the energy that comes with it.
Make this year memorable by soaking up as much of what this holiday is about and truly allowing yourself to feel grateful. It will add to your life. ___ (Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of "The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.")