Have a Happy Thanksgiving

I mean that as an exhortation, not just a polite seasonal thing to say.

If you are a traditional Christian, you know that thankfulness is a theme that runs through both the Old and New Testament.  It’s a staple of hymns and contemporary praise songs — there’s even one named “Give Thanks”, with a lullaby cadence perfect for putting your just-fed baby to sleep.  And let me tell you, a sleeping baby is a lot to be thankful for.

Thankfulness: not just for Christians anymore!  If your faith is more holistic and universal, you’ll know that gratitude is a staple of all major religions.  Like pie, it’s something we can all agree on.  Even Adam Smith, best known as the father of hard-hearted capitalism, wrote extensively on appreciation and its role in both morality and commerce.

Die-hard atheist?  Maybe you hold a belief system completely devoid of the supernatural.  Even then, you’d appreciate the health benefits of incorporating more gratitude in your life.  A number of peer-reviewed psychology studies have shown that practicing gratitude (not just being a naturally grateful person) create a number of positive effects including reduced stress, increased optimism and energy, and better sleep.  They also place less importance on material goods and report increased generosity: when you’re less focused on your own lack of stuff, you have more capacity to help others.

How do you “practice gratitude”?  The above academic studies compared people who had kept a gratitude journal or list.  When I put together a list, I came up with the basics: family, friends, good health, clean water, and being pretty well off on the Global Rich List.  In addition, I’m grateful for teachers, pastors, and other members of society who work for more than just money and self-interest.

Other gratitude techniques include prayers of thankfulness, writing thank-you notes, and visual reminders.  Do you have any helpful tips on practicing gratitude?

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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