Thanksgiving Day Every Day

“Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.”—Aesop

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” Marcus Tullius Cicero

“The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.” –William Blake

“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.” 

Friederich Nietzche

It’s that time of year again.   We gather with family and friends, we prepare and consume delicious food, enjoy fellowship and (hopefully) the day, or perhaps a long weekend off work.

There are no commercial expectations one is pressured to engage in, nothing we are told we need to buy besides the ingredients for this delicious food—or perhaps a dinner out.

This fall festival is a favorite holiday for many.  Its spirit is simple:  count your blessings, and appreciate them.  Hopefully, we can all say we fulfill this expectation on this day.

But shouldn’t we do this every day?  Shouldn’t we, perhaps, try harder to keep this spirit alive all year?

The answer is yes, and the reason is simple:  it’s good for you, and good for the rest of us, too.  Practicing gratitude has the power to turn bad into good, dark into light, strife into peace.  And, recent research has revealed that it is good for our physical health.

It is simple, yet complex.  It’s easy, yet hard.  Which is likely why most of don’t do it enough.

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While it is hard to quantifiably measure, many studies have attempted to measure the effect that gratitude has on mental and physical health.  Measuring gratitude itself is hard, and comparing the results to a control group may be tricky as well.  However, the research bears out a common theme:  practicing gratitude, choosing to see the positive in every situation, and realizing our blessings are associated with lower levels of illness, lower self-reports of stress, increased amounts and quality of sleep, improved relationships in our families, at work and in our social circles, and increased feelings of good will toward our fellow humans.

Sound too simple?  Or perhaps too flimsy and without proof?  Go ahead and have doubts, but here is the bottom line:  it makes you feel good without any side effects, so why not?  Also:

  • It doesn’t cost a thing.
  • Your feelings of increased peace will be impossible to keep to yourself. It’s a good kind of contagion.
  • It is your choice, so why not choose the positive?

And while you are at it, do an online search for the health benefits of gratitude.  You will be pleasantly surprised, and perhaps even motivated to be grateful.  One of the most widely cited research project appears here:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude

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One year ago today, I was involved in a minor auto accident.  No one was hurt seriously, which was the thing I was most grateful for.  However, there was a lingering darkness about it that hung like a cloud above me.  I had to find a better way, so I changed the way I thought about it:

  • Nobody died.
  • It wasn’t my fault.
  • The other driver had good insurance, and she was sincerely apologetic.
  • My beloved car was crunched in the back, but it was drivable.
  • I got a rental car while it was being fixed.
  • My minor but lingering neck pain could have been a lot worse.

I decided to be thankful instead of angry or upset.  I decided to see the good in a situation that initially felt like a bad situation, but I changed it in my mind, and I was better for it.  I like to think I was better for others, too, not harboring any resentment, anger or holding a grudge.

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Exercise is essential for good health.  However, it is a commitment of time and energy.  If its benefits could be bottled and sold, it has been theorized, they would fly off the shelves.  Motivation for exercise can be hard to come by.  You may feel tired.  You may not feel you have enough energy, enough time, enough warm clothes in this cold weather.

Reframing these thoughts can help:

  • “I am thankful that I can move my body.  Some people don’t have that ability.”
  • “I am grateful for a free hour.  I could watch television, but I will be thankful that I have this choice on how to spend my time.”
  • “The great outdoors are a beautiful gift of nature.  I will get out and enjoy them.”

Turning the negative into the positive provides a better outcome.  It is your choice; no one can force you to be pessimistic.  And, the best bonus of all is this:  you will, very simply, feel better.

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Thanksgiving is meant to be enjoyed with family, friends, food, fellowship and fun. Enjoy all these aspects of Thanksgiving, and hopefully, many more.

After the holiday is gone, and the leftovers are all eaten, remind yourself to keep the spirit of gratitude alive.  If you practice it regularly—just like exercise—it will make you feel better—just like exercise.  It can turn a bad day into a good one, a gray mood into a bright one, and is easily shared.

Acknowledging the positive things in your life in writing has also been shown to enhance the benefits.  This practice of keeping a gratitude journal holds you accountable to recognizing something by putting it in writing.  It also serves as a reminder when you re-read your past entries.

Again, it is your choice.  You can choose to see the goodness in your life, or you can stay blind to it.  You have nothing to lose but negativity.

Thank you for taking the time to consider gratitude, and Happy Thanksgiving.