A Thankfuller Thanksgiving

I've said it before, and I'll say it again...grateful people are happier, healthier people. And since we're stuffing our mouths with all kinds of foodie goodness this Thanksgiving, we might want to cut back in other areas. Say, take a fast from whining and complaining. Not only will we reap the benefits of our improved attitude, our friends and relatives and those gathered at our table will bask in our pleasantness.

In that gratitude mode, let me go visual on you:

I'm thankful that my husband, on a trip to the West Bank last week, is safely home. He also picked up this extremely awesome Palestinian nativity, complete with dividing wall and watchtower.

I'm so thankful that we finally got our front door fixed. The knob was all wonky, and we could barely get in and out of the house. We even joked that, if anyone broke the window, then reached through to turn the knob from the inside, it wouldn't have helped a bit. Ralph from Security Safe & Lock, you're our hero.

I'm thankful for family and friends and community. They keep us alive. If you don't think so, read this book:

When we connect, really connect, with our family or with a friend, we're doing ourselves good. We were designed for it. Maybe you're not looking forward to everyone who will be gathered around that Thanksgiving table--you be the one to listen to so-and-so brag about herself/complain unceasingly (even ask a few questions, as pure frosting!). You be the one to appreciate and encourage that person who is always trying to compete with you. What does it cost? Nothing. In fact, we get to let go of our own agenda and flit around, adding to others' enjoyment by seeing them and listening to them, instead of resenting them.

And, if you haven't been invited to a Thanksgiving dinner, host one! Invite those new neighbors or those co-workers. Food has always been my love language. And if I really love you, I'll make you something, using the best ingredients.

Have a happy holiday. (And look--I resisted putting in the link I saw, about how many calories we serve up on our Thanksgiving plate. Because who cares, really? Thanksgiving is about the Village Effect, not our diets.) Gobble gobble!

The Thanks that Keep on Giving

Nothing says it like a Hand Turkey

Yesterday my youngest drew up an 80-item list of things she was thankful for. I'm thrilled to report I topped it, well above "Clocks" (#17), "Candy and Cake" (#34), and even "Weapons" (#72). "God" made a pathetic appearance at #80, barely beat out by "Couches." That's always a tough call.

While the eight-year-old's list began to sound like those "Anniversary Gifts" booklets they hand out in Hallmark stores--Silk, Cloth, Wood, etc.--she nevertheless had the right idea, in this season of thankfulness.

Gratitude researcher (yes, there is such a job) Robert Emmons of UC Davis has found that people who practice gratitude demonstrate greater overall well-being. To take just two examples, he discovered that,

  1. In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003) [emphasis mine]. And,
  2. A daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison (ways in which participants thought they were better off than others).

It can be too easy during the holiday season for adults to focus on the negative: negotiating logistics, difficult family situations, the stress of gift-giving, lines at the post office, planning the giant feasts. Consider this post a gratitude intervention and feel free to come up with your own Top Ten List!

Top Ten Wonderful Things about Thanksgiving:

1. The food. Whether you eat in a restaurant, buy your feast at the grocery story, potluck it with friends and family, or slave over the whole thing yourself, Thanksgiving kicks off the season of deliciousness. If I ever go completely berserk from not keeping a gratitude journal, end up on Death Row and am offered a final meal, I just might ask for a Thanksgiving meal. It's all about the stuffing and cranberry sauce, the green-bean casserole and pumpkin pie. Mmmm...

2. It's not Christmas. No gift pressure. Yeah, maybe you bring your host a bottle of wine, but that's it.

3. We're stuffed, not starving. Think about the pilgrims and how touch-and-go things always were food-wise. Thank heaven for Native-American generosity in those early days and the abundance of our modern food supply.

4. Thanksgiving celebrates leftovers. As I've mentioned before, so many times leftovers get pushed to the back of our fridge until they liquefy or grow nasty gray-green fur. But Thanksgiving leftover creativity has become a tradition in itself. Turkey soup, turkey enchiladas, turkey a la king. Cranberry sauce appears on sandwiches and made into quick bread. When in doubt or suffering from lack of imagination, we just eat the meal itself, over and over until we run out.

5. Thanksgiving is all about opening our doors to each other. The Pilgrims and the Native Americans again. We gather with family or friends or strangers or a mix of all three! And that's how it should be, traditionally speaking. No one cares about 4th-of-July-Barbecue Orphans or Arbor-Day Loners, but Thanksgiving's a whole 'nother story.

6. Time off! (Unless you work for the government, in which case you have already received your reward.)

7. Nap time is sanctioned. Thanks to the early meal and the game on, everyone catches up on some sleep.

8. You don't have to dress up or give out candy. Call me the Halloween curmudgeon, but I consider this a real bonus.

9. We take a moment to compile lists like these. One family I know has everyone go around the table and name something they're thankful for before they can dig in. If you know anyone with a gratitude problem, this can be a real motivator.

10. Thanksgiving leads to Christmas. The second my husband puts down his fork, it's officially Advent. The lights go on. The Christmas music goes on and away we go.

Happy Thanksgiving! May your turkey come out juicy and your rolls lofty!

(This post is shared by both my blogs today.)