Since Thursday, November 26, 1789, Thanksgiving Day has been celebrated as “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer.” This day was proclaimed as a day of thanksgiving by President George Washington. President Abraham Lincoln encouraged the practice by setting aside the last Thursday of November as a day of giving thanks. Thanksgiving was added to American culture when Congress passed legislation to make Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Independence Day national holidays. One day out of 365 days to appreciate our blessings despite all the adversities we face seems a pittance when there is so much to be thankful for.

Beyond Pilgrims Pride
Thanksgiving Day has come into question of late due to the oppression suffered by indigenous people, who, as history tells the story, welcomed the pilgrims and showed them how to survive the harsh winters. Over time, for their generous efforts, they were then slaughtered or displaced as the practices of Manifest Destiny and imminent domain came into play. Fast forward a few centuries, and descendants of all sides struggle with the ambiguity of this day of remembrance to give thanks.

If we take the time to rise above the controversy – not forgetting it, nor ignoring it – but consider this day as a catalyst for adopting a lifestyle of gratitude and generosity, the benefits improve society and each individual’s health. There are many gifts to be had from listening and appreciating the life stories of the “other.” The stories shared can lead to understanding, healing, and acceptance, if not unity. Once you hear where a person comes from and what they’ve been through, they no longer seem threatening in many cases. Stories and lessons shared can enrich your life and, in some instances, can be life-changing.

Benefits of Gratitude
Melody Beattie is quoted as saying, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Gratitude is actionable. Thanksgiving is the feeling of being grateful for the blessing you have received.

Building on the feeling of being thankful and moving into a lifestyle of gratitude enhances our lives greatly and the lives of those we encounter. Gratitude causes you to live with purpose appreciating more of what you experience in life. A lifestyle of gratitude is one you can be thankful for because, in addition to making a difference in the world around you, it also makes a difference in you.

The health benefits of adopting a lifestyle of gratitude are many. From relieving stress to helping you sleep better at night, practicing gratitude can make you feel better and perform better.

This year remember the many things for which you can give thanks. Go deeper and then live a life of gratitude.