Thanksgiving. Walmart. 6am. Shopping. Turkey. Stuffing. Stuffed. Football. Apple Pie. Wine. Leftovers.
No. This year, I did things differently.
Small. Family. Fish. Snow. Quiet. Gratitude.
A virtue of the ancients. According to Peterson and Seligman, a higher level virtue of transcendence. In one of my favorite books of all time, The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt extols the importance of gratitude in modern life.
The key, is finding a level of gratitude in the deeds of every day. According to the think tank Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life at The The University of California, Berkeley,
Gratitude is foundational to well-being and mental health throughout the life span. In the past few years, there has been an accumulation of scientific evidence showing how gratitude contributes to psychological and social well-being. A growing body of research has documented the wide array of psychological, physical, and relational benefits associated with gratitude from childhood to old age.
From forming fulfilling personal relationships, to encouraging successful work partnerships, to raising children, to maintaining romantic intimacy, finding gratefulness is essential.
I'm not religious at all, and you don't need to be in order to practice gratitude. But, regardless of spiritual inclination, I believe a Benedictine Monk, Brother David Steindl-Rast, of the Greater Good sums the idea up best:
Gratitude is the spontaneous response of a healthy body and mind to life. We should not expect it from a person who suffers in mind or body. With training, however, one can learn to focus on “opportunity” as the gift within every given moment. This attitude towards life always improves the situation. Even in times of sickness, someone who habitually practices grateful living will look for the opportunity that a given moment offers and use it creatively.
I take this lesson into my Thanksgiving weekend.
Black Friday (er, Thursday?) and 6am shopping is not Thanksgiving. Stuffing yourself silly and falling asleep on the couch is not Thanksgiving. Watching football until your eyes are blurry from HD overdrive is not Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving IS gratitude. Being grateful for the loves in your life, the earth under your feet, and the food on your table. I have so much to be thankful for and THAT is Thanksgiving.