Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Second Chance for Thanksgiving

Canadians get a second chance to give thanks because our American neighbours celebrate Thanksgiving six or seven weeks later than we do. One of the pastors in our ministerial is back stateside as we speak because he is an American and joins his family at this time of the year. He did comment a few weeks ago that he likes US Thanksgiving better because it feels like more than a long weekend and people fill churches to express their gratitude. After getting over him dissing Canada (he wasn't really) I realized that he had a point. I have seen the shift over time, both in church attendance at Thanksgiving and the general tone of gratitude.
An article in the New York Times this week offered suggestions about gratitude from a number of researchers. I have excerpted a few ideas:
“Gratitude is more than just feeling good,” says Nathan DeWall, who led the study at Kentucky. “It helps people become less aggressive by enhancing their empathy. “It’s an equal-opportunity emotion. Anyone can experience it and benefit from it, even the most crotchety uncle at the Thanksgiving dinner table.”
Share the feeling. Why does gratitude do so much good? “More than other emotion, gratitude is the emotion of friendship,” Dr. McCullough says. “It is part of a psychological system that causes people to raise their estimates of how much value they hold in the eyes of another person. Gratitude is what happens when someone does something that causes you to realize that you matter more to that person than you thought you did.”
Try a gratitude visit. This exercise, recommended by Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania, begins with writing a 300-word letter to someone who changed your life for the better. Be specific about what the person did and how it affected you. Deliver it in person, preferably without telling the person in advance what the visit is about. When you get there, read the whole thing slowly to your benefactor. “You will be happier and less depressed one month from now,” Dr. Seligman guarantees in his book “Flourish.”
Contemplate a higher power. Religious individuals don’t necessarily act with more gratitude in a specific situation, but thinking about religion can cause people to feel and act more gratefully, as demonstrated in experiments by Jo-Ann Tsang and colleagues at Baylor University. Other research shows that praying can increase gratitude.
Go for deep gratitude. Once you’ve learned to count your blessings, Dr. Emmons says, you can think bigger. “As a culture, we have lost a deep sense of gratefulness about the freedoms we enjoy, a lack of gratitude toward those who lost their lives in the fight for freedom, a lack of gratitude for all the material advantages we have,” he says. “The focus of Thanksgiving should be a reflection of how our lives have been made so much more comfortable by the sacrifices of those who have come before us.”
Does any of this ring true? Are you still feeling grateful a couple of months after Canadian Thanksgiving? Do you wish we had Black Friday?
Happy Thanksgiving to American readers tomorrow.

Hey, a good news environmental story for a change!



Forail said...

I'm always feeling thankful! I try not to take what we've been given for granted. Except maybe TV. :)

David Mundy said...

Given that the last couple of weeks have not been exactly easy for you, your affirmation of gratitude carries weight Forail.