6 Good Reasons to Give Thanks

A healthy dose of gratitude can do wonders

The first Thanksgiving gathering in this country was shared between Native Americans and Pilgrims, expressing gratitude for the first harvest. In November, many of us will gather for a turkey dinner, maybe watch a parade or football game. Thanksgiving is also a time to remember to give gratitude. No matter what your circumstance, giving thanks on the holiday and other times throughout the year can have positive effects on your life.

Here are a few good reasons to give thanks, including a couple you might not have considered as blessings.

1. For what you do have
When our family moved cross country with two kids in tow, money was beyond tight. We had a cardboard box with a table cloth for a coffee table and a donated couch in the small house we rented through my employer. With Christmas around the corner, we opted for one family gift—a Nintendo Wii, with sports games and Rock Band. Nobody missed the pile of presents or dining out that we had enjoyed in previous years. We spent more time in that little house, together as a family, trying to beat each other’s scores at the ski jump or jamming on RockBand. It is a time I will always cherish.

There will always be someone who has more than you, and someone who has less. Be thankful for what you do have, in the moment. You might just find something uniquely special about not focusing on the material aspects of life.

2. For people
Take a look around your Thanksgiving gathering. It may be perfectly peaceful. Or it could be like ours, with people of different religious beliefs, an upset sibling, relatives who talk too much and get louder with each glass of wine, and the tween who doesn’t want to sit at the kids table. They can be annoying, but they are our people. No matter our differences, we love them, and realize we are lucky to be part of this crazy family.

Your family could be people you are not actually related to—those who you love and trust most. Be thankful they are part of your life.

Take the opportunity to tell your family and close friends you how you feel about them, in words. It’s the greatest gift of thanksgiving you can offer.

3. For failure
Undoubtedly, you have failed at something, we all have. Whether it’s a soured relationship, sobriety, lost business or failed class, it is not the end of the world. We just need to let go of that particular dream or possibility, move on and create a new vision, hopefully learning from past mistakes. If we never fail and make adjustments, we lose out on the possibility to do better.

The first employee I hired for a new business spent more time drinking alcohol at work than working. When I terminated him, he tried suing me, unsuccessfully, for the next three years. My poor hiring decision gave me a quick and thorough lesson in personnel law that I was able to draw upon time and again for years to come. While painful to go through, it turned out to be the best failure I have had (so far).

Failure is awful when you are going through it. Try and be thankful that it will give you a chance to try something different, be better next time or expand your skills and experience.

4. For your health
There are many health benefits to being thankful. Giving heartfelt thanks creates a positive feeling for you and the recipient, which can counteract negative thoughts such as resentment or frustration. Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has documented the link between gratitude and well-being, showing that gratitude can increase happiness and reduce depression. Medical research is showing that being thankful can reduce stress and even boost your immune system. Having trouble sleeping? Keep a gratitude journal next to your bed and write down the things you are thankful for at bedtime. Counting blessing has shown to be effective for some people to fall asleep faster, sleep more soundly and awake more refreshed.

5. For your work
Feeling thankful for your work largely depends on attitude. If you hate your job and dislike your boss and co-workers, well, I’d say it is time for a new job. Focus on some of the positive aspects of your position and remind yourself of your special skills and what you contribute. Be thankful for earning money and being productive. If you are a manager, expressing gratitude to employees can help your effectiveness and their productivity while creating a better workplace.

Gratitude is also an antidote for excessive entitlement—those who think they deserve more than others at work and are never satisfied with what they get. Grateful people create a positive work environment, with lower levels of negative impulses such as resentment, greed and bitterness. If you know someone with excessive entitlement at work, perhaps they need a gratitude adjustment.

6. For fellowship
Opportunities such as volunteering on a group project, raising your voices together in song at church or in a band, hanging out with friends at a reunion or neighbors at a town party, are an opportunity to connect and get to know people better. Gratitude is ultimately about connection and paying attention. Take a moment to consider that your fellow humans have gone through hardship in their lives, experiencing pain and loss, and hopefully also great joy, too. We each have a story to tell.

The first Thanksgiving in 1621 was a mix of 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims. Expressing gratitude for the diverse people that make up our lives helps us feel more connected to the world. The next time you are in a group, make a point to talk to someone you don’t know well, or who is different from you. Rather than talking about sports scores or your new barbeque marinade that is the bomb, find out one new thing about someone in the group by asking them about themselves. It is important to appreciate each other’s uniqueness and the history and culture that made us who we are.

Need a gratitude boost? Take a walk and appreciate the leaves crunching under your feet. Pop in and say hello to a neighbor and thank them for being a in your life. Indulge in a seasonal flavored coffee, tea or slice of pumpkin pie and breathe in the scent. What does it remind you of? Reflect on a happy memory from the past. Take the opportunity to tell your spouse, family and friends that you love them, and express your thanks for the role they fulfill in your life. Choose to be thankful.

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