Why Should We Celebrate Thanksgiving?

 

Every Saturday morning for the last two years I have started my day with a cup of dark coffee infused with froth and pull out my journal. On a fresh page, I write out the highlights of my week, what I’ve learned, and what I’m looking forward to. All I have to show for this little ritual is a couple of worn notebooks. What can’t be measured so easily is the internal growth I’ve experienced.

 

I don’t have everything figured out and definitely haven’t achieved the rung of self-actualization Abraham Maslow referred to in his pyramid of needs. In fact, like most everyone in the human race, I swoop from one level to another depending on circumstances and my reaction to them. Yet reflecting on my time in a positive and grateful way has improved my outlook and mood tremendously. I believe this simple habit has been so helpful because science supports it.

Viewing the world through the scope of gratitude has been linked to major health benefits. Apparently, loving what you have is healthier than wanting what we don’t have.

Significant improvements in symptoms of depression are associated with daily recordings of positive events. I suspect that change is a result of neuroplasticity or rewiring our brain with new patterns. Looking for what’s going right rather than what’s wrong genuinely reduces stress

Staying in a problem solving state for long periods of time leads to chronic stress. But regularly writing down what you care about leads to better sleep, a deeper sense of self-care, and greater life satisfaction. Expressing thankfulness is also associated with a stronger immune system and a higher level of energy. That grateful attitude leads to an overall improvement in heart health.

 

This year, more so than most others in my life, I intend to spend more than a few seconds rambling off a less than sincere prayer of what I’m thankful for. I have learned to appreciate the simplest aspects of life; like seeing dear friends and family, connecting in new ways with co-workers, and serving students and families in the community.

While my children were little, we used to rotate around the table before our Thanksgiving feast naming things we were thankful for. This year calls for a return to that tradition with more reflection than ever.

Our hearts will thank us.

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