Every year around Thanksgiving, I’m reminded of the biblical origins of giving thanks, and what giving thanks has become in today’s society.
In the Bible, giving thanks is a frequent theme. It comes up 102 times in the Old Testament and 71 times in the New Testament. The Bible talks about giving thanks for blessings, for forgiveness of sins, for delivering us from evil, and for God’s love and strength.
That’s why we give thanks when we say grace, which comes from two Latin words – “gratia”, which means “thanks” and “gratus”, which means “grateful”.
Today, giving thanks is more of a social custom. We’re taught at a young age to say “please” and “thank you” because that’s good manners. It’s polite. We thank people all day long, not just for acts of kindness, but for the simplest things, like pumping gas. We end our emails with “thank you.”
Ask yourself this question. Every time you thank someone, do you mean it? Has giving thanks become trivialized? I sure hope not.I’m not saying we should stop saying “thank you” under any circumstances. Expressions of gratitude are important. But the phrase “it’s the thought that counts” applies here.
Thanksgiving is the time of year to think about what giving thanks truly means. It’s the time to show gratitude to those who help you and your family. It’s a good time to bring back the tradition of writing “thank you” notes.
Thanksgiving is the time of year to savor and be thankful for all that’s good in your life rather than dwelling on unsolved problems, missed opportunities, mistakes, regrets, politics, or things you wish you had but don’t.
I know what you’re thinking. What does this have to do with feeling better, functioning better, and living longer?
Well, giving thanks and being grateful is good for the soul, good for the spirit, and good for humanity. It lifts people up. Does anything make you feel better than a sincere, heartfelt expression of gratitude to someone who helped you in some way?
Also, gratitude has been linked to better health in scientific studies.
Researchers from the University of California, Davis and the University of Miami found that people who kept a daily gratitude journal consumed up to 25 percent less fat, and levels of stress hormones like cortisol were 23 percent lower. They were also happier and more optimistic. Perhaps most importantly, people who kept a gratitude journal were more likely to have helped or offered to help another person.
I talk a lot about the importance of making better decisions and behavioral changes that help you prevent and even reverse illness and maintain your good health. That includes thoughtfully giving thanks more often.
Being more thankful is one more lifestyle change that can improve your psychological well-being, which can then have a downstream effect on your physical and nutritional well-being. All three parts of the Triad of Health are equally important.
We all have things to be grateful for. Write them down. Celebrate them. Count your blessings – literally. Thank people for their kindness.
As you gather with family and friends, remember the true meaning of giving thanks. Focus on what you have, not what you lack. Be thankful, and have wonderful Thanksgiving.