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Thanksgiving: A Grateful Heart

Heather Edwards Mental Health Counseling / Articles  / Thanksgiving: A Grateful Heart

Thanksgiving: A Grateful Heart

ThanksgivingThanksgiving is a time of family, tradition, love, abundance, and appreciation. It’s celebrated nationwide annually by all cultures and religions, and in other countries on different days in different ways.  Here in the USA, it’s the most heavily travelled day of the year marking it as one of the most popular national celebrations.  For many, it kicks off the holiday season beginning an exciting time of gathering, feasting, and memory making.

Our celebration of Thanksgiving began in 1621 at a Plymouth feast prompted by a good harvest.  President George Washington proclaimed the first nationwide Thanksgiving celebration on November 26,1789.  He declared it a day observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many favors received. It’s been an annual tradition in the United States since 1863.  In 1941, it became celebrated on every fourth Thursday in November, by federal legislation.

A Day of Gratitude:

On this day, acknowledge the many gifts you have received – especially the people in your life. Look around your home.  Who is there?  How do they, to the best of their ability accept, love, and support you?  We are social creatures.  We thrive when surrounded by our tribe, family, or people.  We depend on a sense of belonging,  community, and a common purpose.  In Abraham Maslow’s famous 1943 paper on the psychological theory of innate human needs, he identified belonging as a fundamental human need only second to physiological ones for food, water, and safety. Without belonging, loneliness, social anxiety, and clinical depression can develop. If you are lucky enough to have family and/or friends to celebrate with today, express gratitude to those pillars of your health and well-being.

Thanks for Abundance:

On the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims celebrated the abundant fall harvest.  Today, the celebration of abundance takes many forms including the food on your table, your health and that of loved ones, the roof over your head, the kindness of friends, and the giving and receiving of love.  It’s an opportunity to focus on the good.  The trials, tribulations, and disappointments of life still exist, but they’re not the focus of your attention today. Instead, devote your energy toward your good fortunes, no matter how small.  Without them, you would miss them.  Focus on what you DO have, not what you don’t.

An Open Heart:

When you open your heart, you open yourself to greater health and abundance.  This affects your physiology in ways that attract, create, and sustain more positive thoughts and behaviors.  The tons of research on gratitude and positivity by Martin Seligman and the School of Positive Psychology, Rick Hanson on the neuroplasticity of the brain, and Dan Seigel on interpersonal neurobiology (and more) demonstrate that we respond and create our experiences through the ways we perceive, relate to, and interpret the events around us. The events themselves do not create our experiences.  The way we think about them does. Catch your interpretations. Adjust them. Open up to the good.  Search out the silver lining. Trust, hope, and give thanks.

As you look around the dinner table today, embrace the good fortune and generosity of family, friends, and the many ways you’ve received nourishment. Today, choose to focus on the good. It surrounds you. Practice patience, love, and gratitude. Celebrate Thanksgiving and the plentiful harvest of your life!

“The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.” – William Blake.

Heather Edwards, LMHC, BCC

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