The observance of the Thanksgiving Holiday is understood in various ways, and celebrated at different times, in numerous countries. There is some debate about the origins and initial celebrations of Thanksgiving but it wasn’t until December of 1941 that President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill into law decreeing the Holiday to be celebrated throughout the country on the fourth Thursday of the month of November. It was then that it became permanently, and legally, solidified as an annual fall tradition throughout the United States.
For some the Holiday has religious roots, for others it is a time to gather with family and celebrate the harvest (or in urban terms, eat a huge meal.) Retailers see this as the beginning of their busy season as shoppers prepare for the mad rush to the malls the morning after the turkey feast.
Many families have a wonderful tradition of going around the table, before everyone digs in, and saying a few words about what they are thankful for. This isn’t simply a nice gesture is actually an exercise in healthy living that unfortunately in not practiced enough.
Research tells us that the very act of being grateful, on a regular basis, can improve our mental health, facilitate better sleep and better interpersonal relationships. It certainly seems an easy thing to do, to be grateful, if the benefits of the behavior are so many. But is it? On most days, when you’re not specifically asked to give thanks, are you thinking about your blessings or focused on managing problems? Are you grateful for what you have or on a constant quest to acquire more?
We know that people, who feel grateful despite their own specific circumstances, are more likely to be charitable with their money, time or both. They are less likely to be depressed. This has been shown to be true even with teenagers and yet somehow the attention for many still doesn’t seem to be on how to live a more appreciative life.
There is no doubt that it takes practice and committing to making any type of life change; even one that seems so simple, can be difficult. Why not try to make this Thanksgiving week have a greater meaning in your life and the lives of your family members? When you go around the table on Thursday evening, and hopefully you will, ask people what they are thankful for and challenge them to ask themselves that question every day from this day forth. Every life has its challenges, some more than others, but what we chose to focus on will ultimately be the things that become magnified. Even if there are days you have to dig deep to find something to be thankful for it is well worth the effort and may even help pave the way to more good fortune.
I wish everyone here a Happy Thanksgiving and may the attention to gratitude inspired by this Holiday last throughout the coming year.