5 Alternative Rituals for Giving Thanks

If you’re looking for a new way to say thanks, here are five unique ways to practice gratitude for ourselves, our communities, and the world around us.

Thanksgiving is here and. if you live in the States, I’m willing to bet you’re preparing to gather with family, friends, or simply yourself to take stock of all you have to be grateful for. While the Thanksgiving holiday gives us plenty to look forward to – pie, stuffing, and all those veg-friendly sides, to name a few – sometimes the sentiment of the day itself can feel a little lost among all the obligations that come with it (one year I went to FIVE Thanksgiving dinners in one day – it was far from relaxing and left me feeling particularly stressed), and of course, the shadow of Black Friday that can loom over it. If you’re looking for a new way to give your thanks, today I’m sharing five alternative ways to practice gratitude for ourselves, our communities, and the world around us. Choose one or two to take on this Thanksgiving weekend, then try weaving them into your routine all year round:

Give thanks in nature:

Listen, the holidays can be great, but they can also be super loaded for a lot of us, with packed family dinners, jumping from house to house, and navigating multiple hors d’oeuvres tables (to mention the least of holiday stress-makers). Stepping outdoors, whether for a solo walk or hike, or a stroll with a close family member or friend, can be the perfect reset for the spirit during a hectic day. If your holiday is packed to the gills, take a few moments outdoors to stand, observe, and breathe. Listen to the natural sounds around you. If you schedule is more open, consider making a day of it and taking a hike to spend some quality time with just you and the natural world.

Give thanks to your community:

Instead of setting your alarm for midnight to hit those Black Friday sales, why not spend the day after Thanksgiving, well… giving? If you’re lucky enough to have the day off, sign up at your local animal shelter or resource shelter to give your time (most shelters have a sign-up sheet or training period, so be sure to call or check websites beforehand). Have to work? Gather some goods to drop off at a local food pantry or shelter on your way to the office to ensure everyone in your community eats well this season – or organize a donation drive of your own to collect non-perishables at your workplace. If shopping is still on your must-do list, check out charities like Toys for Tots or local coat drives and pick up a few meaningful gifts to donate to families in need.

Give thanks to your body:

Even the most festive holiday fanatic can be left feeling depleted from too many parties, too much indulgence, and not enough movement. It’s important to give back to your body year-round, but especially this time of year. Scheduling a yoga class or simply penciling in time for your favorite workout is the perfect way to tune in to how you’re feeling, slow down, and listen to what you need during a time of year when the self can often get overlooked as we take on the obligations, pressure, and stress that so often come with the season.

Write your thanks:

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day minutiae of our lives – bills, appointments, commitments, the news cycle – and forget all that we have to be thankful for. As the year begins to come to a close, the start of the holiday season is the perfect time to take stock of everything good that has happened to you over the past 12 months. Take a few moments this Thanksgiving weekend to jot down what you’re thankful for – the good things, the lessons, the opportunities, the love. Keep it to yourself, or make a note to share over dinner, you may even be inspired to make a habit of taking stock and writing your thanks. Want to go one step further? Jot down a few short notes to people in your life whom you’re grateful for and send ‘em off to brighten someone’s day.

Give away: 

If you’re planning on spending the holiday or the holiday weekend solo, consider checking two things off your to-do list at once and organize your home in preparation for the new year while you collect donations for local (or national!) charities and groups. Clean out your closet and set aside gently used clothing to send to coat drives and clothing donation centers, collect toiletries and non-perishables to send to shelters (and consider sending some to the victims of the California fires), and set aside old towels to give to animal welfare groups to keep pups and kitties comfy while they await their forever homes.

+ How are you celebrating the season of thanks? Share with us in the comments!

Julie O’Boyle is a freelance content creator living in Portland, Maine. Follow Julie on Instagram & check out her blog!



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I love the idea of giving thanks to nature! It’s a refreshing one!

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

4 years ago

Thank you for this one!