By Dorene MacVey | Owner, ithrive31

We hear it every day: It is important to live gratefully. This concept is backed by multiple studies linking gratitude to physical, emotional and social well-being. Research shows that people who focus on gratitude are happier, more resilient, more empathetic and have stronger interpersonal relationships. Additionally, they have less stress, sleep better and take better care of themselves. All good stuff, but we all know that life is also hard and so many negatives come at us every day.

So the question is: How do we practice gratitude so we can live gratefully?

I believe the key lies in our ability to integrate specific actions into our daily lives. I love the idea of a gratitude journal, but in addition to this fundamental practice, I think there are so many fun, creative ways to live grateful lives. For me, I practice gratitude by doing something different throughout the year, 31 days at a time.

I’ve compiled three fall-oriented practical (and fun) ways to put gratitude into action this season. 

31 Days of Gratitude Messages

During the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I practice 31 days of gratitude by sending a message of gratitude to 31 people who have significantly impacted my life over the year. This is one of my most treasured annual Thanksgiving-Christmas traditions and centers my heart for the season.

Instead of Black Friday shopping, I spend my Thanksgiving evening making a list of people I am grateful for. I identify those people who have impacted my life in a positive way over the past year. Then, beginning on the Friday following Thanksgiving, I select one person each day and send them a text message or email. My message always begins in the following way:

"Between Thanksgiving and Christmas is my annual 31 days of Gratitude. Each day I choose someone who has blessed my year and made an impact on this season of my life. Today, I choose you, and here’s why:

The next section is a very personal note to the individual stating:
  • Why I selected them and how much I value them.
  • How they have impacted my life in a positive way.
  • What they mean to me.
  • How special they are and why.
  • How much I appreciate having them in my life.
  • I close with this message: "So, (Insert Name), I say a prayer of gratitude for you today and I am grateful that you are in my life."

For each of the 31 days, I copy and paste the intro and closing message but make the heart of each message very personal, specific and meaningful to the individual I have selected. This is the first thing I do when I wake up each morning, and I look forward to it each and every day.

31-Day Thankful Pumpkin

This is a fun idea I have integrated into my fall tradition. Beginning Oct. 1 (this can also be done in November too!), I buy the best pumpkin I can carry home and grab my Sharpie. This becomes my October table centerpiece, and at the end of each day I write one thing I was grateful for that day. It is a great way to train your brain to find that "diamond in the rough" – the one thing that stood out, even on bad days. For families, it can be a fun way to teach kids about being thankful and they can look forward to writing something on their Thankful Pumpkin each day!

At the end of 31 days I read all my blessings and then, well, it’s time for the pumpkin to be returned to the earth — a symbolic reminder that I should not take any of my blessings for granted. For those who want to hold on to the memories, foam pumpkins can be used to save year to year.

31-Day Horn of Plenty

The cornucopia as a symbol of plenty – consisting of a goat’s horn overflowing with flowers, fruit and fall vegetables. It’s symbolic of prosperity, good fortune, fertility and abundance to demonstrate our thankfulness of the harvest. Instead of filling it with the traditional harvest gatherings, personalize it with your blessings.

Beginning at Thanksgiving, place a cornucopia on the table. Each day, take a piece of fall-colored paper and write a blessing of thankfulness. Place this in the cornucopia to remind yourself of your personal "horn of plenty."

Variation of a theme: This can be a great family activity. Each night before dinner, ask each family member to record their blessing, read it to one another and place it in the horn of plenty before eating together. It is a great way to learn what is important to each other while having some fun in the process.

Putting gratitude into practical, fun and action-oriented ways brings positive momentum to your life and into your home. Practice gratitude in action – 31 days at a time.

Dorene MacVey is the owner of ithrive31 LLC: A Coaching and Personal Development Company. Ithrive31 offers leadership and professional coaching along with personal development programs to help individuals live a thriving life in their workplace and in their home. Contact her via email.