The spirit of Thanksgiving is more than just eating a big meal and watching football; this holiday season is about expressing gratitude for the people, places, and things in your life that you often take for granted. A chance to slow down and consider the abundance in your life, Thanksgiving is a time for community involvement and provides countless opportunities to resonate appreciation and generosity, rather than one of consumption and personal gain.
While the primary people you are grateful for might be your family members, consider the entirety of your social circuit as you count your blessings. As research shows, our social relationships are intimately linked to our happiness and life satisfaction, so why not go the extra mile (or block) to offer your gratitude to your local community this holiday season?
Here are 10 ways you can give thanks to your community this Thanksgiving.
1. Check on your neighbors
Call or text your neighbors (especially elderly neighbors) to make sure they’re doing okay. Ask if there is anything that they need (be it a box of tissues or a cup of sugar). If you have what they’re looking for, offer to leave it outside their front door so that they can pick it up without coming in direct contact with you. It sounds extreme, but this is actually a great (and safe) way to make sure that your more vulnerable neighbors have what they need.
If you feel comfortable going out, consider knocking on the door of any elderly neighbors and chatting through the screen or storm door just to offer a bit of comfort and reassurance.
2. Explore ways to connect and volunteer
Being grateful means taking nothing for granted. Show your support for a cause you believe in by sharing your abundance in the form of time, energy, and donations. Look for local churches or services that provide Thanksgiving meals for those in need. Participate in volunteer opportunities and spend an afternoon at your local community center helping kids read,or take some time to clean and walk dogs at a nearby animal shelter. Every community has nonprofit organizations that are contributing to those who need it, so give thanks by getting involved in local activities and fundraisers.
Giving Tuesday is a global day of generosity that will take place on November 29. The Healthiest State Initiative is focusing our Giving Tuesday fundraising efforts on Make It OK, a community campaign to reduce the stigma of mental illness by starting conversations and increasing understanding about mental illness.
Mental health is an important issue that impacts our families, communities and state. In fact, 1 in 5 adults will experience a mental illness. For far too long, people have been afraid to open up and share experiences with mental illnesses for fear of being judged because of the stigma surrounding it. If an Iowan is struggling with a mental illness, stigma should never be a barrier to seeking help.
3. Waste not, want not
For many of us, the first of many mad dashes to the grocery store happened a while back. And if we’re lucky, our pantries, freezers, and fridges are stocked with the necessities (and maybe even a few treats).
According to Feeding America, each year 72 billion pounds of food goes to waste. A few simple ways to cut down on food waste include storing food in the proper place (and at the proper temperature), waiting to wash produce until you’re ready to use it (to avoid mold), freezing anything that you don’t expect to use in the near future (if freezing is possible), making a stock, composting, and eating your leftovers!
4. Give blood
According to a recent press release from the American Red Cross, as the novel coronavirus continues to spread, we can expect to see a decrease in those eligible (and willing) to donate blood. Here is what they have to say about the current situation:
“Right now, the American Red Cross encourages healthy, eligible individuals to schedule a blood or platelet donation appointment at redcrossblood.org to help maintain a sufficient blood supply and avoid any potential shortages. Donating blood is a safe process and people should not hesitate to give or receive blood. The need for blood is constant, and volunteer donors are the only source of blood for those in need of transfusions.”
5. Make a donation
While many of us are busy hunkering down and pouring over the latest CDC recommendations, millions of nonprofit professionals all over the world are working to continue to deliver services and implement programs, uninterrupted. And that’s going to be really, really difficult.
If you have the resources, consider making a donation to your favorite organization. Whether they’re on the front lines of the fight to quell the coronavirus, or their mission is entirely unrelated to the current crisis, your dollars will make a big difference.
6. Give Thanks
Take some time over the month to give thanks in your office or home, decorate a box or plastic pumpkin and encourage staff and or family members to place those notes in the container. Share those thankful notes at your next office staffing or holiday get together.
7. Thank Your Local Small Businesses by Posting Your Love for Them Online
One way you can show your gratitude for your community this Thanksgiving is by supporting your local small businesses with your money and your praise. If you haven’t given them a five-star rating on the top search engines, take five minutes to write them a review or donate to their website. Tag them in your social media posts and spread the good word. The owners will always appreciate organic publicity, so be generous with your praise, and keep small businesses alive and thriving.
8. Write a Thank-You Note to Someone You Haven’t Properly Thanked
The practice involves writing a letter thanking someone to whom you have never fully expressed your gratitude. It could be a teacher, a friend, or coworker, or anyone else you want to thank.
Studies have shown that writing and delivering gratitude letters increase happiness significantly for the person writing the letters. So not only will the person receiving your note feel appreciated, you will feel happier too! Spend 15 minutes writing a gratitude letter and experience long-lasting results.
9. Decorate Your Office/Home with Festive and Gratitude-Themed Decor
Does your office or home look welcoming? Put your decorating skills to the test. Consider a flag or sign that spreads happiness and cheer. Plant some fresh flowers. Display a happy pumpkin or two.
10. Take care of yourself!
The best thing you can do to help your community and give back is to stay healthy! Practice good hand hygiene and follow social distancing guidelines to slow the tide of the virus.
*Credit for information in this article from Idealist (Alexis Perrotta), Positive Psychology, Giving Tuesday and Make It Ok in Iowa.