Reflections on Thanksgiving and Gratitude

If you want health and happiness, according to medical and mental health professionals, it’s necessary to be grateful. I’ve heard exhortations to gratitude all my life, mostly from parents and spiritual advisors, but it appears that brain specialists have joined the chorus. And it is not just that people who are grateful for their blessings are nicer to be around and that has a spreading effect on the people around you. 

Remember that Bing Crosby song from "White Christmas"?, “Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” That’s the spiritual take, of course, but I find it comforting to have those conversations with God. “You’ll fall asleep, counting your blessings,” Cosby crooned. Hint: That is a comforting way to fall asleep. 

However, that is not the method prescribed by the health professionals. Nope, if you want to be healthier and happier, sit down and write your gratitudes for 15 minutes, three times a week. Set a timer. In six months you will be healthier and happier, though not necessarily richer. Richer does not seem to be in the formula.  Ask me how this works:  I don’t know. It has something to do with the areas of the brain that light up when you are expressing gratitude. Sounds to me like gratitude may be hard-wired into us!

So, count your blessings, but only for 15 minutes! 

I have friends who have developed gratitude traditions, such as posting a photo every day in November to show what they are grateful for. Others  tweet or mention on Facebook three items for which they are grateful daily. I love reading these, as a contrast to the diet of newsworthy calamities, tragedies, crimes and sour opinions we are fed by the media. I know, survival-threats are click-bait. But at my age, as the Old Testament writer lamented, “There is nothing new under the sun.” 

Hearing what makes my family and friends’ hearts sing, though, adds sugar and spice to my life.

Writing down my “gratitudes” three times a week you can cover the basics pretty fast: family, food, freedom.

After that it’s the little things that count: 

  • I’m grateful I lost ten pounds and my clothes fit better. 
  • I’m grateful my neighborhood is safe to walk in, and I’m grateful I can walk.
  • I’m grateful that there are so many wonderful writers in the world. 
  • I’m grateful for freedom fighters around the world, and the United Nations where some of our differences can be talked out. 
  • I’m grateful that my daughters grew up to be spectacularly kind and talented women. 
  • I’m grateful my grandchildren are happy to see me. 
  • I’m grateful for friends who are interested in transformation as a way of life.
  • I’m grateful there is such a thing as fun.
  • Definitely grateful for the things I’m missing during Quarantine, such as birthday parties, dinner theater, parades and picnics. 
  • I’m grateful for scientists and medical folk who are getting us through this terrible epidemic, and I will be joyfully and ecstatically grateful when the pandemic ends. In fact, there may be a world-wide celebration when that happens, as well as mourning for the millions who have died already, and those who became chronically sick. Thank you, God, for vaccines, medications and hospitals!
  • One more gratitude: modern communications. I’m so grateful for my cell phone. It’s not just that it is at hand in my jeans pocket--but so much is accessible, including the thousands of books in the Audible and Kindle library that Abi and I share. I have loved books since I was a baby, as have my children and grandchildren. Thank you, thankyou, to writers, artists, publishers, printers and distributors and those who narrate  the Audible books when my aggravatingly arthritic hands can’t hang on to them. And thank you to all the readers who take books from my Little Free Library and others around town and those who put books into them. 
  • And thank you to the generous, who help make the holidays brighter for those who cannot afford to celebrate, those whose children Santa forgets. My husband Jesse grew up in one of those poor families. Their only gift was an orange. One year the oldest daughter was fired up by talk at school and persuaded the children to hang up their stockings on Christmas Eve. He never forgot the disappointment of that Christmas morning. I'm grateful for you givers.
  • Our church’s Committee decided to donate gift cards for children from low-income families in the elementary and middle  school I pass by on my daily walks. The school counselor will distribute the cards. I hope those parents are able to do something special for Thanksgiving, that they have a moment of feeling blessed.
  • I’m looking forward to getting together with family this year, some of them, as we have had shots, even the grandchildren, and us oldsters got our booster shots. I’m thankful we will be able to celebrate together.
  • I’m also grateful that Thanksgiving is a national holiday, celebrated by Americans from all backgrounds. Except maybe the grumpy ones. 

I'd be interested to hear what makes your heart sing!

Have a great Thanksgiving, everyone!

Michele

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