There are so many ways to make the most of the leftovers from your Thanksgiving table. From the classic turkey sandwich (add a bit of cranberry sauce and a dab of spicy mustard!), to leftover sweet potatoes, which can easily be turned into amazing gnocchi with the addition of some flour, an egg and a bit of salt, you really can do some amazing things to extent your holiday meal.
What’s true for the food on our tables can be just as true for the experience of gratitude which typically animates at least the opening moments of many Thanksgiving meals.
You really can extend your experience of gratitude, if not to all year, at least for longer than it might normally last. And frankly, it’s in your best interest to do this, as gratitude is actually a medically proven path to achieving greater happiness and better overall health.
So what can you do to accomplish this? Here are five straightforward steps that should at least get you through Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or however you celebrate the possibility of light and warmth during winter’s darkest and coldest days:
1. Start a Gratitude Diary. This can be written or verbal. It can be spoken aloud or simply something upon which you focus for a few minutes at some regular time in your day. Personally, I find that when I first wake up and when I go to bed work best, but see what works best for you. However you do so, take a moment each day to identify something or someone for which you are grateful.
2. Share something from your daily diary. At least once a month, tell a friend or loved one a story about something for which you are grateful. Don’t be surprised to find yourself smiling by the end of that story.
3. Acknowledge that happiness and satisfaction are different. We can want more than we currently have and still be happy with what we’ve got. Wanting more does not have to get in the way of enjoying what we already have. If it does, we will never have enough.
4. Appreciate that abundance, be it relationships or in material wealth is all relative. A person who lives in a $100,000 house in a neighborhood of $75,000 homes experiences living in a mansion. The same house in a neighborhood of $500,000 homes may feel like a hovel.
5. Help yourself by helping others. The holidays are a great time to reach out to other people in need. Helping others address their needs is one of the best ways to relieve the anxiety we may feel about our own.
Rabbi Brad Hirschfield is the author of "You Don't Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism," and president of Clal-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.