Thankful Four Thankfulness and Gratitude Writing Prompts by Chris Dunmire
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By Chris Dunmire | Updated Novmeber 13, 2018
"When your cup is full, stop pouring." —Lao Tzu
The Thanksgiving season naturally opens the space for reflection and appreciation for the abundance in our lives. Holidays gift us with the opportunity to consciously "check in" with what we are grateful and thankful for — not just in the material sense, but also in intangible assets.
What's going well? What people bring a nurturing and welcoming presence to our lives? How do we get to celebrate and express our creativity? Where is love flowing to and from? What gifts and talents do we get to explore and share? How do we get to use what is already in our possession to our full advantage and in service of the greatest good, today?
To put a fun, contemplative twist on this opportunity for reflection during the Thankgiving season, I've designed an enticing prompt in the form of the "Thankful Four" handwriting turkey — a printable PDF packet to download and use as a tool for inner exploration and outer creativity.
"What are You Thankful Four?" is the question that combines the art of hand tracing with the metaphor of "reaching" deep within yourself to identify and name the things you are thankful for in your life. These may be material, and I encourage you to consider gifts that cannot be destroyed or taken away. What reflects your unique essence and potential creative contributions?
This hands-on kinesthetic approach of art-inspired writing is purposely designed to link 'the bird in your hand' with awareness of sufficiency and abundance of what you already have, adding the playful element of childlike hand tracing to link awareness between your mind and body. (I give you unlimited permission to do this playful activity in full childlike joy if it's been a long time since you've traced around your fingers to make a 'hand-sational' turkey shape! It's fun!
The Thankful Four activity pages can be printed on regular paper, card stock, or colored printer paper on an inkjet or laser printer.
Use this writing activity for yourself, in the classroom, in a group, at work, or at home. Hang your finished project where you'll see it often — in your cubical, on the fridge door, a bulletin board, in your car, etc.
Includes three "draw your own hand" pages and two finished hand/turkey template pages. (PDF 413KB)
This contemplative writing exercise focuses on thankfulness, and I encourage you to also include your sense of gratitude in your writing. What's the difference between the two? In part, the degree to which you experience your inner response to something done to you or its effect upon you. For an interesting perspective, DifferenceBetween.com notes this about "Thankful vs. Grateful":
There are situations in life when thank you just doesn't seem to be enough. It is not able to express the kind of gratitude you feel towards a person who has obliged you in some manner. This is when you say you are grateful. You are grateful to God for having given you life, food, shelter and a beautiful family, but you also feel grateful to someone who does a special favor to you in real life. When you say or write that you are grateful, you have a deep sense of gratitude that is not reflected with a simple thank you.
Words are symbols we use to express thoughts and feelings. Sometimes through common use the meaning of words blend and genericize (think "love"), so pay close attention to the energy (emotion) and intention behind what your heart and mind longs to express if you want to use your writing to dig deep.
Dicitonaries are simply a tool for understanding general meanings of words. Go with your intuition to capture and reflect your authentic expressions in your writing. Note how some feelings can emerge stronger than others — try to reflect these values with your word choice:
Dictionaries make no difference between thankful and grateful and list one as the synonym of the other. But thank you has become so common that it has lost its magic especially in situations when you want to express your deep sense of gratitude towards someone who has done some favor to you. Grateful carries meaning and weight whereas thankful is so common that you use it without any sense of gratitude. Being thankful expresses your sense of appreciation whereas grateful expresses your sense of deep gratitude.
Fostering gratitude through reflective writing activities such as journaling is a worthwhile endeavor that has shown positive benefits, especially in children. According to a published University of Illinois study, children "who were encouraged to keep a gratitude journal showed a significant decrease in materialism and increase in gratitude" (UofI, 2018).
Materialism is "a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values" (Materialism, 2018), and while it's natural that our lives include the enjoyment of objects and material necessities, being overly focused with materialism "has been linked to a variety of mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, as well as selfish attitudes and behaviors" (UofI, 2018).
If you enjoy this Thankful Four writing activity, consider keeping a gratitude journal. Setting one up is as easy using a spiral notebook or opening a new Word file and beginning right now.
4. (2018) Wikipedia. Retrieved October 20, 2018 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4
Materialism. (2018). Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved October 20, 2018 from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/materialism
Thankful vs Grateful. (2013, July 30). Retrieved October 20, 2018 from https://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-thankful-and-vs-grateful/
University of Illinois at Chicago. (2018, October 12). How to avoid raising a materialistic child. Retrieved October 20, 2018 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-10-materialistic-child.html
©2004, 2009, 2018 Chris Dunmire. All rights reserved.
This creative writing activity prompts you (or your kids, friends, support group, students) to reflect upon and write at least four things you are thankful or grateful for during the Thanksgiving holiday season (four = fingers leftover after the turkey head). Interestingly, the number four (4) has a variety of symbolic meanings across the realms of spiritual, religious, scientific, philosophy, and technology — notable among them: stability, order and completion (4, 2018).
Embrace the symbolism of the number four, and feel free to let this prompt inspire you to keep writing more if you wish — turn this reflective opportunity into a personal essay or private journal entry, or to share as a blog post, twitter tweet, Instagram post, or other social media snippet to cultivate and connect with others, and if you're feeling particularly artful, color or decorate your special Thankful Four turkey and hang it up in a special space to remind yourself of the good things going for you and flowing to- and from you.