Thanksgiving is about sharing joy and love with those you appreciate. And, yes, it is a beautiful tradition, setting aside time to say thank to the people who have made your life worthwhile.
But aren't you the person most responsible for making the changes, the choices, and the sacrifices that have cultivated the life you have now? For whatever parts of your life you are grateful, you deserve acknowledgment. They wouldn't exist without you.
I spent years at war with myself.
I spent all my time taking care of others, filled my hours with charitable distractions, so I wouldn’t have to focus on myself. It was an excuse not to address my own problems. My health deteriorated. I fell into depression. I was always exhausted.
The only thing that finally allowed me to get out of that pattern was starting a gratitude practice. I made a concerted effort to consistently focus on what I appreciated about my life. I would write down five things I was grateful for every day, no matter how ungrateful I felt. The extent to which this increased my sense of balance in life cannot be overestimated.
After seeing the positive impacts such a small practice had on my life, I was motivated to take it even deeper. So, I tried something radical, just to see how it felt. I started to thank myself for just being me.
I would say things like, “Thank you for doing the best you can.” “Thank you for trying each day to do your best.” Even when I was disappointed with myself, even when I thought I had fallen short, I took myself to a place that I could still be grateful to myself and appreciative of the fact that I had shown up. I had made an effort.
The results of my self-love gratitude practice were surreal. I found inner peace, discovered my life purpose, and developed a genuine love and appreciation for me.
It's easy to get confused about this. It's easy to let self-imposed expectations and guilt trick us into believing self love is selfish. It isn't. It is our innermost need. When we accept ourselves fully and feel gratitude and appreciation for ourselves, we can give to others of our time, our energy, and our love more richly.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving — a celebration of gratitude — take time to thank yourself for being you.
Not a clue where to start? Here are 15 easy ways to inject some gratitude for you into your day.
1. Stop chastising yourself for not being further along in a certain process or towards a certain goal. Appreciate how far you've come.
2. Look in the mirror and compliment yourself. (This is one you can do every day.)
3. When you find yourself speaking negatively about yourself, stop. Immediately. And think of a compliment instead.
4. Accept compliments with grace instead of deflecting them.
5. Write down ten things you love about yourself. Refer to it any time you start to feel unhappy about yourself.
6. Schedule a special date with yourself.
7. Eat the extra helping without feeling guilty — if it's what you really want.
8. Make a list of ways you've made a difference in others’ lives.
9. Smile more.
10. Listen to your heart.
12. Take time regularly to do what makes you happy. (Even if it's 30 minutes a week to get a pedicure or hit the gym. It makes a huge difference.)
13. Express yourself more. The world needs what you have.
14. Ask yourself “What do I really want?” instead of “What should I want?” And do it.
15. Write a letter to yourself, thanking you for being you.
If you want help creating your own list, grab this free Love Your Life to the Fullest guide.
Shannon Kaiser is the best-selling author of 5 books on the psychology of happiness and fulfillment including The Self-Love Experiment and Adventures for Your Soul, Joy Seeker, and Unshakable Inner Peace Oracle card deck, and the forthcoming book Return to You. She has a B.A. in journalism and communications from the University of Oregon. As an international life coach, speaker, and retreat leader, she helps people awaken and align with their true selves so they can live their highest potential.
She's been named top 100 Women to Watch in wellness by mindbodygreen, alongside Cameron Diaz, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kris Carr and Gabriel Bernstein, and was listed as of the freshest voices in mental health and wellness by Chicken Soup for The Women's Soul. She's been named one of Entrepreneurs Must-Follow Instagram Accounts for Inspiration and Top Facebook Accounts for Daily Motivation by Mind Body Green.
Her website Playwiththeworld.com has been names top 75 Personal development websites and top 100 self-help websites by the institute for the Psychology of Eating. She's an international life coach and author mentor, and a full time world traveler with a home base in Portland, Oregon with her best friend, her Golden Retriever Chance, who she flew to China to Rescue.