Thanksgiving is for thanks-giving


In my previous post about Thanksgiving on a budget, I laid out the history of the North American Thanksgiving holiday. While it’s taken quite a while to get to this point, the more recent incarnation of this holiday has been centered around giving thanks for what we have. Or at least it should be. As with most holidays in the US, the big companies try to take over and commercialize the living daylights out of everything.

Now we can buy decorations, tablecloths, dinnerware, and all manner of turkey-themed knicknacks. The President of the United States even gets to issue a T-day proclamation and “pardon” a turkey, which ensures that particularly lucky bird will spend the rest of its life roaming freely and not trussed, stuffed, and roasted on a dinner table. Though there has been some suspicion involved in that whole process. The Huffington Post wrote a story last year about the fates of previously pardoned turkeys. Mental Floss also wrote a thorough post on the whole history of Presidential poultry pardoning.

There are also plenty of companies out there offering to cook part or all of your holiday meal. While that may be a good option if you’re hosting a huge amount of people and would rather spend time with them than spend thirty straight hours in a kitchen, that is not the case for most people.

And honestly, this holiday should be about spending time with your loved ones. They won’t care if you don’t have a perfect spiral, smoked, honey baked ham, if the turkey skin isn’t just-right crispy, if the stuffing is a little dry (that’s what gravy is for). We tend to put so much stress and importance on the perfect meal that we forget the purpose of having it: to be thankful. To count our blessings. To spend time with people we care about and share a meal together.

There have been tons of psychological experiments on the psychological and physical benefits of an “Attitude of Gratitude” with more being published all the time. People who practice gratitude consistently report stronger immune systems, more joy, optimism, and less feelings of loneliness. The Huffington Post wrote a great article on 10 Reasons Why Being Thankful Is Good For You. The reasons include better sleep, better grades, better relationships, improved heart health, and boosted immunity.

Gratitude has been purported to help in many chronic health diseases like depression, CFIDS and Fibromyalgia. The CFIDS & Fibromyalgia website has an article summarizing a well-know gratitude book “Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier” by Robert Emmons. The NYTimes also wrote a nice article about the main points in Emmons’ book.
The CFIDS & Fibromyalgia website also included a 5-point list of things you can do in your life to increase gratitude right now. To sum it up:

5 Things You Can Do To Increase Gratefulness Now

1. Keep a daily gratitude journal. Write down 3-5 things every day you are thankful for. You only need a sentence, and it could be as simple as the sunrise to a hug from a friend to a raise. 

2. Use a visual reminder. People are forgetful little things, out of sight out of mind. Write yourself post-its of all the good things and people in your life. Set an alarm to go off at different intervals to remind you to take a thank-you break.

3. Have a gratitude partner. Any habit is easier to maintain if you have accountability. Plus gr-attitudes are contagious. Make a point to cultivate relationships with other thankful people. One of your daily gratitudes can then be your thankfulness partner.

4. Make a public commitment. This goes along with #3 but is directly related to achievable goals and should be made more public, like a weekly thankful Facebook status, family, or join a support group.

5. Change your self-talk. Also known as an inner monologue, this is the voice running constantly in the back of your mind. Most people have lower mood when that voice is negative, “you’re not good enough”, “you’ll never lost that weight”, “that raise isn’t gonna happen”, etc. With conscious practice, you can rewrite the script to be more kind to yourself and the other people in your life. 

This list is at my desk in lab, where I see it every day.


The University of California, Berkeley is launching a 3-year long, $6.5 million initiative: Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude. This project aims to increase scientific knowledge of the process and benefits of gratefulness as well as to educate the general public on current knowledge and future findings. They will be exploring everything from the neuroscience of gratitude to gratefulness in romantic relationships to how thankfulness may reduce bullying. All good stuff I think. You can find out more about the project here.

So if the stuffing is a little dry, be thankful you have stuffing at all. If the bird is slightly burnt, be thankful the nine hours of roasting killed any harmful bacteria on it. If the family feud begins somewhere between “grace” and “pass the pumpkin pie”, be grateful you have a family to share this day with in the first place. I am so very grateful for my family, my amazing mother and grandmother who taught me how to cook and supported me through burnt popcorn and un-jelled Jello. My dad for teaching me the value of a dollar and good financial practices. My many friends and roommates over the years who suffered through many first attempts at recipes and recipe creations.
I am thankful for the ability to get in my working car, drive to a store which is less than twenty minutes away, fill a cart with fresh, tasty foods, and pay for it without worrying about overdrawing my credit. I am thankful that I now have the ability to cook healthy, hearty, delicious meals, and the ability to share that with the internet world. I will be giving many thanks this Thursday, and I hope you will too.
Thank you for reading! Happy Thanksgiving, readers.
More info:
For more information on ways gratitude is good for you, research, and ways to feel more thankful, check out Harvard Health’s article: In Praise of Gratitude, Psychology Today about Giving thanks: The benefits of gratitude, Happier Human’s blog The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Know About, and Berkeley’s video clip on the benefits of gratitude from Robert Emmon’s himself.


Please share: What are you grateful for?


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