If you're hosting a small gathering, I've got some mindful conversation starters that will turn it into a gratitude dinner that will leave your guests feeling like royalty.
I have themed them into three categories: past, present, and future. Pick one or try all three.
Past: I appreciated that thing you did.Our first prompt is an opportunity to open up the gratitude pipeline and allow the joy to flow! Start with one person, and ask each other guest to share one short story or example of why they are grateful and appreciate that person. Repeat for everyone present. I guarantee the result will be some red cheeks (sometimes getting a lot of praise triggers our embarrassment feelings) and your guests floating on air. I suggest using the format of: "Remember [previous experience]? [Insert appreciative addition that was previously unsaid]." Here's a hypothetical example of how this works: "James, remember that time when you brought me that surprise tea latte when we were going on a trail hike? I said thank you, but I want you to know how much I really appreciated that. I had been feeling undervalued at work and feeling sorry for myself for taking time to go hiking when I could be catching up on emails or cleaning the house. You reminded me to take time for the sweet things in life, and that was really powerful for me. It might have seemed like the smallest kindness to you, but to me it represented something more. I really appreciate it."
Present: Pile on the compliments!
Now that we've reflected thoughtfully on the past, let's head to the present. It's time to pile on some compliments! Whether you're commenting on a piece of homemade jewelry, or just thanking someone for asking about something going on in your life, shower each other with compliments. I suggest the same format as above: each guest takes turns getting showered with compliments from the others. This prompt works well if you have many guests who don't know each other; it is very insightful to see what someone who doesn't know you well sees in you to compliment. By the way, have you ever wondered why we pay each other compliments? Compliments don't cost anything, so I'd encourage you not to wait until a small gathering to give someone a compliment.
Future: I'm looking forward to...
One of the best things in life is having things to look forward to; there is research that says the anticipation of good things on their way contributes to well being and feeling satisfied just as much as having those good things arrive! This prompt is my favorite, and it's a lightweight one if you need to lighten the conversational mood (useful if politics or something negative has come up -- use this to turn a corner, as opposed to trying to talk about the weather). The prompt is simple: ask people what the are looking forward to. Travel and trips, special events, a book waiting for them at the library -- nothing is too small! I often find that once this conversation starts, you'll find people really jump in and you don't even have to prompt anyone to join -- everyone joins in. I also love this one because it inspires others to broaden their horizons. I know I've gotten great book recommendations, travel tips, and restaurant suggestions just from hearing what others are planning.
Have a great gratitude gathering!