I prefer to no longer dwell on thoughts of pilgrims and natives when I think of this day, of Thanksgiving. In many ways it is a problematic idea that conjures, at least for me, images of the horrors of colonization.
This is also a holiday with a politically influenced history and in modern times seems to have become the greatest yearly event of consumerism. Not just because of the large quantities of food and drink that are partaken of, but because Thanksgiving has become little more than a tailgate party before the big kick off of the Christmas shopping season. How much time is spent on this third Thursday counting our blessings and how much is spent browsing ads and planning which stores to visit and in which order.
Thanksgiving also has a long tradition of actually being about giving thanks. Kings and later presidents would call for days of thanks in which their people would remember victories, bountiful harvests, and other forms of God’s provision. Today, around the world some form of these days of thanks is celebrated to appreciate the harvest.
This last part is what I like to consider as I celebrate our U.S. version of Thanksgiving, it’s what I encourage my family to think of. Since we have no harvest of our own, I ask them what things in life they are thankful for? I ask them to write it down and we make a display.
There is power in being thankful. It is a holistic practice that benefits the mind, body and spirit. Science backs this up and its pretty compelling. I’ll add some links at the end of this for further reading, which I strongly encourage.
One example is research done by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons, which shows that the simple act of keeping a gratitude journal (in which you regularly jot down moments from your day that your are thankful for) significantly increases your overall well-being and feelings of satisfaction. It is something Ann Voskamp also details in her book, 1,000 Gifts. It is the reason I tattooed “Eucharisteo”, to give thanks, on my left forearm. I want to always remember to savor gifts in life.
And so I beseech you to do the same. What are you thankful for? How many blessings can you count? What does this day really mean and how can you help redeem it?
- Harvard Health Publishing, Giving thanks can make you happier: https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier
- Psychology Today, Science Proves That Gratitude Is Key to Well-Being : https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mindful-anger/201807/science-proves-gratitude-is-key-well-being
- Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier by Robert Emmons
- One Thousand Gifts by Ann Vosekamp