The Gift of Gratitude: How to Have a Truly Happy Thanksgiving

There is nothing wrong with a pre-Thanksgiving meal workout. Maybe this year it can have an intention of gratitude.

Often times during Thanksgiving we are concerned with staying in shape and making sure we get in our workout before the big meal. I teach a yoga class on Thanksgiving morning and it is always filled to capacity.

Often times during Thanksgiving we are concerned with staying in shape and making sure we get in our workout before the big meal. I teach a yoga class on Thanksgiving morning and it is always filled to capacity.

When I was a runner, I’d always get in a long run before the meal. It made me feel better about consuming a large amount of food. There is nothing wrong with burning calories before consuming them. I agree it is a smart strategy. However, maybe this year your pre-meal workout can have an intention of gratitude.

Setting an Intention

I always start my yoga practice with an intention. It makes the practice more sacred and it keeps me focused. The same can be done before a run, lifting session, or CrossFit training. Simply take a minute before starting the workout to mentally ask your body and mind what it needs from the workout.

Listen quietly for the answer. It will, most likely, differ daily or weekly. While you exercise, periodically remember your intention for the workout. I like to inhale the essence of the intention and exhale all limitations keeping me from experiencing the intention in every area of my life. Do what works best for you.

Give Thanks to Your Coaches and Trainers

As Thanksgiving approaches it is a generous gesture to honor the teachers, trainers, and coaches who have inspired you on your path. Maybe you honor your coach by acknowledging what he or she has done for you by writing a thank-you letter, or maybe you treat your teacher to a cup of coffee telling him or her in person how your life has changed.

If this person is not accessible then maybe you honor him or her by sharing with others the wisdom that was bestowed upon you. Be sure to give this person credit by telling others where you gained information on a specific technique or knowledge.

Give Thanks for the Bigger Lessons in Your Training

Gratitude is a gesture of the heart. Personally, when I feel grateful I am more accepting of others and I feel happier overall. When I get into a pattern of focusing on the negative aspects of others or situations, the downward spiral continues.

This is where yoga and meditation have changed my life for the better. By finding the discipline to practice yoga and meditation when things are great, as well as when things were miserable, I have learned to find peace through adversity. My greatest epiphanies have come while practicing yoga and meditation. I am grateful I have my yoga mat and meditation cushion to go to when I need to be uplifted.

Competitors in a fitness competition embrace and show comradery

Photography by Jeffrey Perez of Oahu, Hawaii

In what way has your workout changed your life? Maybe your workout has lifted your butt or given you defined biceps. Is there something more? Has your workout given you an outlet to release anger or frustration? Have the physical results of your workout provided you with the confidence to do things of which you were previously frightened?

I encourage you to reflect on what your workout has done for you. Not only will this get you in the spirit of Thanksgiving, but it will also give your workout new meaning and purpose. You may choose to write down the way your workout has changed you and put it in your gym bag or somewhere it will inspire you to get up and get moving when you feel tired and unmotivated.

How Can You Give to Others?

Finally, how can the results of your exercise help to inspire others or fully enrich your own life? In yoga, we refer to this as taking your yoga off the mat. I’m guessing the people who have inspired you have influenced other areas of your life by the things you learned through your sport, workout, or yoga practice.

Is there a family member who would love to spend more time with you? Or perhaps you need to forgive someone close to you so you can free yourself of the burden of carrying the grudge. Maybe you simply let your loved ones know how much they mean to you over your Thanksgiving meal.

Whatever you choose, remember Thanksgiving is much more than turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. This year find gratitude not only for your blessings but also in the challenges that have shaped who you are today. Happy Thanksgiving!

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