How Thanksgiving reminds the world about gratitude

Particularly in Canada, the USA and to a lesser extent Mexico, families share this day of gratitude for a good harvest and year. It’s a long-standing tradition going back hundreds of years and has become as comfortable and well-loved part of life as a pair of cozy slippers.

Our Canadian Thanksgiving dinner this year (second Monday of October) … in Leicestershire, England

Today, however, it’s interesting to see how much the element of gratitude is taking hold within the context of positive psychology, influencing mindfulness and other techniques and therapies to help us cope with modern life. Is that really what we need?

Much as some people still may think so, Thanksgiving wasn’t just something dreamed up by the Pilgrim Fathers and the wave of immigrants from Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. Yes, if the settlers made it through the often cruel North American winter, managed to get a good crop out of previously uncultivated land, and kept out of squabbles with outlaws and some of the understandably unamused Native Americans, they did have a lot to be grateful for. But it goes much further now.

Gratitude and Thanksgiving: a key part of human happiness?

According to an article in Positive Psychology, Jack Kornfield is quoted as saying, Buddhist monks begin each day with a chant of gratitude for the blessings of their life. Native American elders begin each ceremony with grateful prayers to mother earth and father sky, to the four directions, to the animal, plant, and mineral brothers and sisters who share our earth and support our life. In Tibet, the monks and nuns even offer prayers of gratitude for the suffering they have been given. Gratitude – and thanksgiving – are international.

Many mindfulness coaches, psychotherapy
and other therapists include ‘being grateful’
as a key part of connecting – or reconnecting
– with others, and even with ourselves.

“Gratitude in all forms is associated with happiness,” writes Madhuleena Roy Chowdhury BA in another article in Positive Psychology – The Neuroscience of Gratitude and How It Affects Anxiety & Grief. “Whether we say ‘thank you’ to someone or receive the same from others, the feeling it brings is that of pure satisfaction and encouragement. Expressions of gratitude help in building and sustaining long term relationships, deal with adversities and bounce back from them with strength and motivation.”

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” – Proverb

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions.” – Zig Ziglar

So do the North American Thanksgivings really make people grateful?

The cynical amongst us regard it as an excuse for a slap-up meal and a family party. In the USA it’s a four-day weekend during which leftover turkey is crammed into sandwiches ready for the picnics shoppers will take when camping outside their favourite store in anticipation of its Black Friday opening at 00:01 hours.

I guess we can only hope that for 24 hours, anyway, Americans this week will stop, be mindful, and be grateful.

That is, just long enough to gather strength for the furious feeding frenzy generated by Black Friday greed and selfishness.

What a funny old world! How does Thanksgiving make you feel?

Please share in the comments…

…and in the meantime, have a great Thanskgiving, USA!