Thanksgiving: A Time For Gratitude
In my humble opinion, Thanksgiving is the most psychologically impactful holiday we have. No other holiday is as pure, simple and nurturing to our well-being. The purpose of this special day is the giving of our thanks for our blessings. A blessing in this situation is anything that gives us happiness and joy.
Joutbert Botha said that if money can buy it, it’s not a blessing, it’s a purchase. We have a tendency in our culture to value our purchases more than our blessings. It is our ego consciousness that makes us want things to make us happy. It is our higher self that can rise above our material desires to see the blessings that really matter in our lives. Thanksgiving is a holiday that isn’t based upon our ego needs.
Some people might have difficulty giving thanks for their blessings as their interpretation of life is negatively biased for a number of reasons. There are so many distractions and disappointments in our lives that we can become so overwhelmed that we are unable to see what a wonderful life we really do have.
“Reflect upon your present blessings -- of which every man has many --
not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
- Charles Dickens
This holiday is not encumbered by fretting about giving gifts or where to go or what to do. It is a time for families to come together in a special way that only Thanksgiving allows us. It is unfortunate that we have only one day a year to give thanks. There are so many positive reasons to have the emotion of gratitude to help us create our perception of reality.
It has been shown that the emotion of gratitude has the most powerful positive effect on our over well-being, happiness, and health. UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons, author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, says that people who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon things they're thankful for, experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness and even have stronger immune systems.
"Gratitude also opens your eyes to the limitless potential of the universe, while
dissatisfaction closes your eyes to it."
- Stephen Richards
Gratitude takes us away from our perceived lack and puts us in touch with a fact that we sometimes forget. We really are whole and complete just the way we are. We were born complete. We didn't bring anything into the world and we will exit this world complete, taking nothing with us. All this stuff we accumulate along the way is just...stuff!
Gratitude places us in the present moment, which is all we really have. The present is a miraculous place if you can get there. A lot of our time is spent reflecting about the past, how horrible or wonderful or whatever we make it out to be. Or we may spend our time speculating, usually in fear, how the future will turn out. Both the past and the future are played in our heads and are not reality; only the now is real. Our gratitude is shown in the present!
"Forget yesterday--it has already forgotten you. Don't sweat tomorrow--you
haven't even met. Instead, open your eyes and your heart to a truly
- Steve Maraboli
Gratitude also produces benefits with the people nearest and dearest to us. There is a “cycle of generosity” that exists in romantic relationships according to relationship researcher Amie Gordon. When we feel more grateful, we are more thoughtful, responsive, caring, and attentive toward our partners. Our partner in turn feels appreciated and grateful, and the cycle continues.
Evolutionary theorists suggest that giving and gratitude have long been linked together. When gratitude is passed to another it can inspire the other to act in kind. Our ancestors who participated in this cycle of gratitude and generosity were more likely to survive, the theory goes.
Gratitude allows us to recognize that our difficult times are sometimes the most meaningful and were necessary for our growth and development. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that adverse experiences often promote hardiness and resilience, shaping how people handle subsequent challenges. Experiencing adversity can not only equip us to deal with negative events but also help us appreciate the positive ones, possibly increasing our overall satisfaction with life. The shift from being a victim of circumstances to being a student learning lessons the hard way can occur only with gratitude.
Let's all try to become more grateful to our loved ones, our friends, our co-workers and those we serve through our businesses. People around you will be happier, more effective and productive. Relationships will thrive in the presence of gratitude. Thanksgiving Day is a great time to begin.