Three words usually come to mind when Thanksgiving rolls around: family, food, and football!
While these are all great things to celebrate on this particular day, there seems to be another greater word that does not get the attention that it deserves. With the stress that is attached to hosting family and planning an elaborate meal, it’s easy for the real meaning of Thanksgiving to get lost within the chaos.
This Thanksgiving, forget about having the best homemade pumpkin pie in town, but instead, make it your focus to emphasize gratitude. Teach your children the real meaning behind this day and tell them that it is about more than just eating a ton of delicious food and watching sports all day. Let them know that Thanksgiving is about sharing thanks, or gratitude and that this is an approach to life that can make each day happier and healthier.
The effect that gratitude has on our lives has been studied by the American Psychological Association (APA). In their research article, "The Role of Gratitude in Spiritual Well-Being in Asymptomatic Heart Failure Patients," they found that gratitude was associated with improved physical and mental health. They conducted a research study that consisted of 186 male and female subjects who had Stage B asymptomatic heart failure. They defined gratitude as a greater outlook on life that involves noticing and appreciating the positive features in life. This can be connected to spirituality but does not necessarily have to be. They found that subjects who had higher levels of gratitude had improved moods, sleep, energy levels, self-efficacy, and lower levels of inflammation. These subjects also had more of a “get to” instead of a “have to” mentality. For example, saying, “I get to make dinner for my family,” instead of, “I have to make dinner for my family.” It’s incredible how one little word switch can drastically change our attitude towards how we approach everyday tasks.
Dr. Robert A. Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California-Davis, wrote a book called, The Little Book of Gratitude. He writes, “Gratitude is not just good medicine, though, a nice sentiment, a warm fuzzy feeling, or a strategy or tactic for being happier or healthier. It is also the truest approach to life.” This quote means that appreciating things in life may require effort and practice, but over time this becomes less effortful, and gratitude eventually becomes a part of who you are (your truth).
On Thanksgiving, take a moment to slow down and remember that the true purpose of the day is to be thankful. More importantly, remember that being thankful is not exclusive to that day, but can be something we cherish every day of our lives because as research suggests, it may help us lead healthier lives.
Emmons, Robert A. “The Little Book of Gratitude: Create a Life of Happiness and Wellbeing by
Giving Thanks.” The Little Book of Gratitude: Create a Life of Happiness and Wellbeing by Giving Thanks, Gaia Books Ltd, 2016.
Mills, Paul J., et al. “The Role of Gratitude in Spiritual Well-Being in Asymptomatic Heart Failure
Patients.” Spirituality in Clinical Practice, vol. 2, no. 1, 2015, pp. 5–17., doi:10.1037/scp0000050.
“Study: Gratitude Is a Healthy Attitude.” News on Heart.org, American Heart Association, 21
Nov. 2016, news.heart.org/study-gratitude-is-a-healthy-attitude/.