We are on the cusp of Thanksgiving, that one day each year when we acknowledge all that we are thankful for, eat too much, and get in a shouting match with the drunk relative of our choice. Then we put on our sweatpants and go shopping, because, tradition. But wait! What if we told you that it was okay to be thankful on other days, too? In fact, there are 364 other wonderful opportunities to give thanks, hard as it is to imagine, what with the lack of parades and pie, but it’s true! Not only that, giving thanks might actually be good for you. It’s a theory. Being thankful is often framed within the context of what we have, be it health, family, or material comforts, so it stands to reason that openly appreciating each will remind us to treat them appropriately and not to take them for granted. For instance, expressing gratitude makes us happy, and there are actual studies supporting the health benefits thereof. Happiness releases science stuff in our bodies and that leads to a lower heart rate and stress hormones—something that helps the individual, but also those around us. Which is nice. Happiness also implies an optimistic outlook and attitude, both of which are, obviously, pretty darn positive. Family can be frustrating (see argumentative relative above), and it is easy to forget just how important they are—after all, we talk to them all the time (or we should). Still, they, for better or worse, helped shape us into the people we are today, and they deserve some credit for that (especially the better). Also, with regard to immediate family, namely our parents and our children, both of whom are fighting their own respective battles with time, we should strive to make the most of our moments together. Kids grow up fast and all too often we blink and the milestones have passed us by—slow down and enjoy them—they are only little once. Our parents, on the other hand, well, now you know exactly how they feel, and if that doesn’t deserve some quality time then what does? And then there’s the bling. Sure, it sounds great to pontificate about things just being things and that material stuffs don’t matter, but let’s be honest—we like our homes, cars, dining room tables, and smartphones—some of us more than others. It is okay to appreciate the comforts we work so hard to have, but even better is to acknowledge the context that such an appreciation provides, namely, not everyone is so fortunate. If that context helps to expand our awareness of others, develop a sense of empathy, and/or lead us to take greater action toward social good, then that’s an incredible side effect of gratitude. Thanksgiving is a fantastic opportunity to share our thanks with those we care the most about, and should be cherished as such, but don’t be afraid to carry the sentiment throughout the year. People might thank you for it.
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What are you most thankful for this time of year? What about the other 365 days? How do you stay grateful? We'd love to hear in the comments!