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Coaches Corner by Ellie West: A Thanksgiving Journey

Thanksgiving holds a special place in my heart. It’s my favorite Holiday. When asked why, my response is simple: “There is no pressure. It’s the one day of the year when families come together, uniting around a table overflowing with an abundance of delicious food.” The magic of this day lies in its ability to foster connection and deepen quality time with our precious family and treasured friends.

One tradition I’ve cultivated, perhaps without even realizing when or why it began, is the practice of asking meaningful questions or asking everyone what they are grateful for, as that encourages family members to share. We go around the table, each person expressing their gratitude and answering the question. It’s a heartfelt conversation that brings joy and warmth to the gathering.

One of the most delightful aspects I enjoy most is challenging everyone to find fun or humor, often inspired by our granddaughters. Their innocence and funny expressions of thankfulness always brings laughter to the table. In doing so, I hope to spread positivity within my family, inspiring them to embrace gratitude with a thankful heart. I often tell my granddaughters, “Have an attitude of gratitude.” There’s a gratitude jar on our counter to cultivate this spirit of gratitude, and when our granddaughters visit, I ask them to write what they’re thankful for and place it in the jar. It’s gratitude in its purest form.

But the benefits of thankfulness extend beyond the warm feelings it generates. According to Dr. P. Doraiswamy, the head of biologic psychology at Duke University Medical Center, gratitude profoundly impacts our health. He notes, “If [thankfulness] were a drug, it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system.”

Scientific studies on gratitude reveal its remarkable effects on various aspects of our well-being. Gratitude can influence neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine, release social bonding hormones like oxytocin, and stimulate cognitive and pleasure-related neurotransmitters like dopamine. Moreover, it can positively impact inflammatory and immune systems, stress hormones such as cortisol, cardiac and EEG rhythms, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Medical research has also indicated that a thankful attitude can reduce stress and enhance our immune system. Wow, isn’t it amazing that something as simple as gratitude can have that kind of effect on our well-being?

When I moved to Minneapolis in 1978, far from my family, I learned the importance of celebrating Thanksgiving. In the second year, I welcomed people with nowhere to go, sparking a tradition that has grown over the years. Even during the difficult times of my life, like the year of my divorce, I extended an open invitation to those who were also alone. Loneliness may try to encroach upon us, but I’ve realized we are responsible for our happiness and joy.

Celebrating Thanksgiving with others filled my heart with joy…so when you are feeling alone, always know that you are never alone, as many in your current situation may even be living next door to you.

There have been seasons in my life when the loneliness set in, and I was not grateful for much…And therefore, instead of giving thanks and being grateful, my joy was stolen from me. That is when I realized I am only responsible for my happiness and joy.

Loneliness can be a profound teacher, guiding us to find peace in our faith and the blessings surrounding us. It’s a chance to say, “Thank you, God, for never leaving me, for your unconditional love and provisions, my unique talents and gifts, and my family and friends.”

When you make space at your Thanksgiving table for others, you make space for your heart to expand. It stretches you, teaches empathy, and deepens your gratitude. Together, we can heal our loneliness and embrace kindness, laughter, and the genuine joy that this beautiful season of Thanksgiving brings.

As you focus on gratitude and the blessings given to you, your mindset and attitude will change, even during the most challenging times. Over the next couple of weeks, reach out to those less fortunate. Send a heartfelt message, make that call, or send a traditional Thanksgiving card through the mail. Let your loved ones know that you care and are grateful for their presence in your life.

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. ~Melody Beattie

To Connect with Ellie FB @coachelliewest Certified Master Practitioner of NLP, TLT, & Hypnosis