In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m compelled to celebrate “outside the box” this year.

Care to join me?

I’ve decided to be grateful for things often not considered. While heartfelt and purposeful to turn toward the goodness in our life as we give thanks, it’s also easy. It’s easy to give thanks for the abundance and the blessings in our life. It’s easy to celebrate the good.

Giving thanks out of places of pain and imperfection… now, THAT is challenging. It’s also exquisitely beautiful, and certainly “outside the box.” As you cultivate a spirit of gratitude this season, I invite you to offer thanksgiving in these powerful places:

1. You.

That’s right. Give thanks for YOU. You are wonderful and messy and in progress… just like everyone else. Give thanks for ALL of you. Be thankful for the parts of your life you love and the parts you wish were different. Give thanks for the parts of your body you love… and find it within yourself to give thanks for the parts of your body you’d like to trade with a supermodel. Seriously.

Give thanks for the work behind you because that deserves to be honored, even if no one will ever know how hard you’ve worked to change your life. Give thanks for the messy place you find yourself now because you are learning, growing, and becoming a better version of you. Give thanks for the road ahead, for it holds the beauty that’s coming. Give thanks for the whole journey: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. You’re not done yet, and neither is your story.

2. Regret.

I know that sounds strange, but finding gratitude in regret has the power to set you free. Everyone has regret. Some regrets are big, others are small. All regrets are great teachers. Be thankful for your teachers.

What’s the first regret that comes to mind? Gloss over the sting or the pain or the anger. Go straight to the learning. What did that specific regret teach you about life, about the desires of your heart, about the values you hold? Simmer in those thoughts and swarm around with a grateful heart for the wisdom you have moving forward. And, while you’re there, forgive yourself and let it go.

3. Public Enemy #1.

Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh, but you get the idea. Who do you feel like punching? Who’s brought pain to your life? Who are you angry with? I’m certainly not suggesting we become thankful for those who have committed acts of harm and hurt. I am suggesting we find gratitude in surviving hardships and trials in relationships. Perhaps it’s a friend or an ex-boyfriend or a parent. Who’s brought you to a place of pain and hurt that allowed you to experience your own strength, or whatever inner quality you felt rise up in you?

What is the legacy they leave in your life? Conjure the good, acknowledge the bad. Sit in the awareness of how their place in your life blessed or changed you. Take it all in and give thanks. Give thanks for endurance and empowerment. Give thanks for whatever goodness rose up in you through the fire. Give thanks for how pain heals across time. When we are grateful, it’s virtually impossible for the bitterness of hurt to infect our lives. Let places of gratitude heal injury.

Well, how’s that for “thanksgiving with a twist?” I promise these places of thanks offer goodness. When we find ourselves able to live in gratefulness for the good, the bad, and everything in between, we are one step closer to a life lived well and with great peace — a gracious gift we all deserve this holiday season. So, take off those cute shoes and relax. Grab a warm drink. Get cozy, and let gratitude flow through both blessed and tender places.

A version of this post was published last year in The Kirkland Reporter. Originally posted in November 2013.


is the owner and founder of Speaking Pink, a private therapy and consulting practice devoted to teen girls and twenties women in Seattle / Kirkland, Washington. Shannon is a licensed family therapist, a private consultant, and a writer about all things on the journey from girl to woman. Follow on Pinterest and Twitter or send an email to