grateful Ask Dr G
Written by Doctor G

Would you consider NOT asking everyone to say what they’re grateful for this year?


In the US, this week begins the “Holiday Season.” Boy, does that bring out lots of feels for most folks! 

Many people will gather in the coming days and weeks, around tables and some kind-hearted, well-intentioned soul will start to say, “Let’s go around the table and say what we’re grateful for!” 

Yeah, so, I’m going to strongly recommend NOT doing that.

Is this because I want to be able to eat my food in peace? Nope.Do I shun this tradition this because I hate America and all Thanksgiving stands for? Well… I’m no longer comfortable with “all Thanksgiving stands for” given all the mass murder of indigenous people, but that is not why I’m asking you to reconsider the “gratitude around the table.” 

Is this because I don’t care about gratitude? Actually, it’s the exact opposite.

Gratitude – the conscious appreciation of that which is good in our lives – strengthens us. It builds our mental and physical health. And it feels great when someone expresses gratitude for us or something we’ve done. Gratitude has been proven to actually grow happiness!

Performative gratitude, however – having to think of something and say it aloud in front of a group of people, especially people who are used to judging you and criticising you (for example, family and friends) – blocks a lot of these advantages. As we go around the circle, people feel a lot of pressure.

“What can I say that will sound good to this group?”

“What will their reaction be to what I say?” 

“What hasn’t been said yet so I don’t look like I’m copying?”

The chemicals most people get more of in their brain when they have to perform in any way are in direct opposition to the chemicals they get from feeling grateful. Basically, this lovely exercise causes unnecessary stress and inhibits happiness.Are you feeling uncomfortable? Do you love this tradition? Does this question help you connect to the reason behind your season? Or is this the big moment for the feeling of togetherness that makes all the cooking and driving and prep worthwhile? Does this change seem dumb or unecessary or filled with loss? Change always does feel like that. Consider these possibilities instead.

  1. Talk about gratitude, but ask each person to write down what they feel grateful for and then put that in their pocket. That’s it. No performing, just actual gratitude.
  2. Ask a different interesting question that people can choose to answer. I found a list for you! But maybe don’t make it mandatory, in order to preserve the experience of those who want to listen only. 
  3. If there is someone you want to get closer to, consider asking a meaningful question when it’s just a conversation between the two of you. I’ll start – What’s a small change the world could make tomorrow to be a better place in your opinion?  I’m actually asking. Hit reply and tell me please!

Wishing you safety, joy and peace.

All my best,Dr. G  

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