Count Your Blessings at Thanksgiving

Count Your Blessings at Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! What are you doing for the holiday? I’m spending the 30 days around Thanksgiving taking an online course called Gratitude, Grace and a Month of Self-reflection.

It’s based on Naikan, a Japanese psychological system that encourages us to count our blessings. It takes about me about 30 minutes a day to complete the assignments, which are pretty eye-opening.

For instance, traditional daily Naikan practice asks us to examine these three areas of living:

  1. What have I received?
  2. What did I give?
  3. What troubles and difficulties did I cause?

So, here’s an excerpt of what a common list would look like (it’s not mine), but yours will probably be longer.

What I received

A warm house in the morning

Friends to run with

A healthy lunch

A fast computer/web access

A coffee shop to hang out in


What I gave

Money for coffee and a good tip

Started work on my financial plan

Made BLT sandwich 

Made babysitter recommendation to neighbor

Gave a ride home to friend whose car is in the shop

Cooked dinner


Troubles and difficulties I caused

Didn’t send a check to a supplier,  even though I said I would

Participated in gossip at lunch about a fellow nurse

Wouldn’t let my youngest child play computer games

Interrupted my wife while she was speaking at dinner

Used time at the clinic for two personal calls

Ignored my dog when he wanted  to play after dinner

Wasted half my salad at lunch

Some of these Naikan exercises are serious and some silly, like yesterday when I did Garbage Naikan. I tried to think about what service I got out of everything that I threw away or recycled, like floss and coffee filters and bus tickets …and the list is endless because I’m supported by the whole universe.

As a nurse you have many opportunites to bless the lives of others. Making a difference while making a living is one of the most common reasons for entering the nursing profession. Doing Naikan will remind you of what you give, was well as what you get.

Remember to be specific and look for the details and be specific — the devil is in the details but so are angels 🙂 Write down the answers or type them or sketch them or speak them into a tape recorder and listen later.

Spend three times as long on the third question as the other two because that’s the most difficult one. (We like to think that other people are bothersome but we’re blameless!)

I plan to spend 45 minutes or so tomorrow doing Daily Naikan and answering those three questions. In my family we go around the table at Thanksgiving dinner and each person says what they’re grateful for. I’m always stumped but this year I’ll be ready.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Jebra Turner is a writer in Portland, Oregon. Visit her at

Count Your Blessings

Count Your Blessings

Happy Thanksgiving! I used to say “happy turkey day!” until a friend of mine told me it made her sad to hear that. “What’s wrong with focusing on our blessings, and not the bird?” Ah, blessings, indeed.

We are a nation rich in so many ways, not only materially, but also socially and politically. And we as individuals are blessed – especially in the field of nursing, where there are such wonderful opportunites to bless others, often when they are most in need. Still, we sometimes lose track of the good stuff; it’s much easier to be aware of what’s missing.

On Thanksgiving we have a chance to slow down and savor a delectable feast, and if we’re lucky, the folks who are closest to us. Some families make a practice of going around the dinner table and having everyone say what they’re most thankful for. You might think that’s corny. Or maybe you’re too shy to share your most personal thoughts and feelings with a group. That’s okay — there are plenty of other options for giving thanks.

One of the simplest is to write a list of the five things that you’re most thankful for just that particular day. Don’t strain your brain to think of the biggies — go with your gut and capture what comes to mind first.

Here’s a sample list:

1. I have healthy children.

2. I’m healthy, too.

3. My close family members are alive and well.

4. I have a special breakfast treat of a mocha and almond biscotti.

5. My puppy is learning tricks — even pat-a-cake — and he hasn’t been getting into mischief at the doggy park.

The list can be all over the place — serious stuff as well as the ordinary or silly things that make life worth living. They’re all reminders of what we have to be grateful for. Many research studies have shown that a grateful heart is a happy and healthy heart.

So, here’s your challenge today: Take a few minutes amid the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving preparations to make your own list of thanks. If you don’t have a pen and paper, just think of what you’d put on your list if you did. A list, actual or mental, won’t help you get the cranberry sauce on the dinner table any faster, but it’s a sure-fire way to raise your spirits during this special holiday.

Bon Appetit!