What are you grateful for? What do you consider the top blessings in your life? As we experience the seasonal shifts of fall with the changing weather, colors and light, it brings our thoughts to the coming holidays. Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Don’t wait for that fabulous food day. Consider your gratitude list now.
Giving thanks and offering gratitude has been with us for a long time. Many offer some form of thanks at meals. Thank you has long been taught to children as a magic phrase, along with please. Prayers of thanks and special thanksgiving ceremonies are common among almost all religions after harvests and at other times. Thanksgiving is a national holiday in several countries, though these days it is sometimes associated more with feasting than with gratitude.
Did you know that Thanksgiving was once celebrated in June? From the time of the Founding Families until the time of Lincoln, the date Thanksgiving was observed varied from state to state. Historically, there were three major proclamations of Thanksgiving in the United States, though it has been acknowledged by presidents each year. The original proclamation was in 1676 declaring June 29th as the day of Thanksgiving; the second by George Washington in 1789 and the third by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Finally, in 1941, Congress sanctioned Thanksgiving as a legal holiday on the third Thursday of November.
Lincoln said, “The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God….”
Thanksgiving also is a celebration of the abundance of the harvest. The favorite holiday icon is the cornucopia, also called horn of plenty. It is a decorative motif, rooted in ancient Greece, which symbolizes abundance. The original cornucopia was a curved goat’s horn filled to overflowing with fruit and grain. It symbolizes the horn possessed by Zeus’s nurse, the Greek nymph Amalthaea, which could be filled with whatever the owner wished.
Our health and happiness cornucopia can be filled by being thankful. Filled to overflowing. Now recent studies show that there are some very real health benefits in feeling grateful.
According to Dr. Paul Mills of the Center of Excellence for Research and Training in Integrative Health at the University of California, San Diego, saying thank you may actually help you live longer. His research shows that heart patients who cultivate an attitude of gratitude recover better. His patients keep a gratitude journal and write down a few things a day in it.
Two other recent studies have incorporated procedures intended to foster gratitude into interventions for cancer patients, with favorable results. Pain patients report that the more they focus on being grateful, the better they are able to manage their symptoms. Some even say that their thankfulness quotient actually reduces their symptoms.
No matter your life state, an attitude of gratitude can positively impact your life. Take some time every day to record at least one thing for which you are thankful. It can be easiest to do this when you get up in the morning and/or right before going to bed. It may take a week or so to get into the swing of it though you will likely find that the more you look at your life with gratitude, the more you have to be thankful for.
Sometimes when we think about gratitude, our minds jump to what we don’t have enough of, for many including time, money or family/tribe. For some, the holidays loom large with loneliness.
Turn that thinking on its ear. Think of the relationships you do have that you treasure. Got one very good friend? You’re lucky. Remember to celebrate that person and tell them that you do! Special family member that warms your heart and life? Let them know. We think of gratitude as an internal, private thing, and it can be. It can also be shared. Sometimes those that we are most grateful for might not even know it! Surprise them with a special card or long distance chat. Invite those with nowhere else to go to your holiday feast. It’s good for your health. And fun!
Count your blessings and enjoy better health and happiness. Cultivate that attitude of gratitude and watch your life transform. Have a fabulous Thanksgiving! And enjoy the food!