“It’s not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”
– W.T. Purkiser
It’s anyone’s guess what the real story was behind that November day in 1621, when Puritans and Indians together, to celebrate what many believe to be the first Thanksgiving in the new world. Whatever we were taught in school was likely a combination of fact, story, myth and folklore. But in actuality, giving thanks and expressing gratitude was a tradition practiced in many cultures, some dating back hundreds of years before our own.
The only thing I’m confident about is that the four men who left the Plymouth Colony on a 3-day‘fowling’ mission, came back with undoubtedly free-range birds, much coveted today, and who probably lived the good life until they became a delicious dinner. I’m sure the diners felt blessed for their good fortune and expressed gratitude for their sacrifice.
Over the course of time, Thanksgiving grew from a tradition to a national holiday, and as we grew as an entrepreneurial nation, became a marketing event – the lead in to the season of giving and the official countdown marking the number of shopping days till Christmas and all the hype that goes along with it. But that’s another story.
Let’s talk about today. Although society has evolved over the centuries, and in our homes we’ve developed our own Thanksgiving traditions, its essence will always be rooted in giving thanks and appreciation for the blessings the year has brought us.
When we begin counting our blessings, we become acutely aware of how very much we have to be grateful for. Regardless of what we may or may not have achieved materially, it provides us with the opportunity to reflect on what matters most in our lives. Our families. Our communities. What we’ve learned on our journeys. We’re grateful for what we have and we realize that true wealth resides in our relationships. Because of it, our lives are enriched and we are successful people.
Gratitude never goes out of style; but it’s true worth lies not in giving it a quick nod as we pass the turkey. It’s not in recognition alone, but in how we express it that we come to understand it’s simple blessings and reap its rewards. Some call it an ‘attitude of gratitude,’ and it’s meant to be shared. After all, gratitude by its very nature involves others besides you. It can’t be practiced alone.
Robert Emmons, who some consider to be the world’s leading expert on gratitude, says the benefits of gratitude come not only when we affirm that there are good things in the world that we’ve reaped the benefits from, but more importantly, when we recognize that those benefits come from others and things outside ourselves. When we acknowledge those others who have contributed good to our lives, it strengthens are relationships, inspires us to give back, and to give to others.
Those who practice gratitude benefit, both physically and psychologically in a variety of ways. Here are 8 ways that gratitude helps people lead fuller and richer lives.
- Gratitude makes us happy. Reports have proven that people who express gratitude to others lead more satisfying lives, are more optimistic, enthusiastic, positive and joyous.
- Gratitude reduces anxiety and depression.
- Physically, people who express gratitude have been found to have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure and in general weather illness better and are less troubled by aches and pains.
- People who express gratitude actually sleep better than those who do not. They fall asleep faster, sleep sounder and waken more refreshed.
- Gratitude makes people more resilient. Grateful people actually bounce back quicker from misfortune and traumatic events.
- Gratitude strengthens our relationships because we appreciate each other more and have no problems expressing it.
- When people are grateful, they are also more forgiving.
- Grateful people are more compassionate and empathetic. They’re more willing to help and contribute to the greater good.
Thanksgiving Day comes but once a year, but lucky for us, we have the opportunity to practice giving thanks every single day. Start by counting your blessings. You’ll be grateful that you did.
“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”
– Frederick Keonig