Happy Thanksgiving from the Nevada Pain family to yours!
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to relax with family and friends, eat delicious food, and express gratitude for all the good things life sends our way. Gratitude comes into the spotlight on Thanksgiving, but the habit of being grateful for life’s abundance has been shown to improve people’s health all year long.
The U.S. Thanksgiving Day tradition dates back to the earliest times in the nation’s history with the Pilgrims and their Native American allies enjoying a fall feast together. However, historic cultures around the world have given thanks in connection with the fall harvest even before Pilgrims started the first Thanksgiving feast, according to the History Channel.
On one of the early Thanksgiving feasts, in 1623, the settlers had just experienced a crop-destroying drought that rains miraculously halted mere days after widespread prayer. Soon after, a Dutch ship full of supplies arrived.
Those days, before technology and grocery stores and economies of scale, when settlers were eking out a living and starting a nation, life was much more precarious. The idea of thanking a power higher than the self for the bounty of life was more common. Thanksgiving was originally a religious holiday, expressing thanks for freedom, food, and other forms of abundance.
Gratitude is a mindset that focuses on the good things in life and recognizes that many of them come from the grace of others or a higher power.
Beyond focusing on what life offers instead of what it does not, gratitude is a social feeling, one that acknowledges goodness often comes from somewhere outside the self. According to Harvard Health:
“Gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals—whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.”
Early U.S. settlers were very in tune with that idea. Starting with the nation’s first president, George Washington, most U.S. presidents declared random days of thanks that honored the freedom the country had just won from Britain. Washington noted:
“It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly implore his protection and favor.”
The exception to those early presidents was Thomas Jefferson, who believed such a declaration of thanks defied the nation’s separation between the church and state, according to the Smithsonian.
However, there was no declaration that the day of gratitude would occur annually, on a specific date, until 1863 during the Civil War when then-President Abraham Lincoln declared every fourth Thursday in November the official day of Thanksgiving.
Lincoln’s declaration is widely credited to a magazine editor named Sarah Josepha Hale who advocated for an annual holiday for 36 years, publishing stories in the publications Ladies Magazine and Godey’s Lady’s Book, as well as writing letters to elected officials, according to the Smithsonian.
Thanksgiving was originally a religious holiday, but has morphed into one more focused on eating and spending time with family.
Over the years, Thanksgiving has lost much of its religious significance, and now focuses more on eating a good meal. As Thanksgiving has become increasingly connected with Black Friday and retailer’s deep discounts, the excitement to start Christmas shopping sometimes overshadows ideas of giving thanks for the abundance already present.
However, celebrating Thanksgiving is a good reminder of the power of gratitude and the importance of taking time to recognize the good things in life.
Ways to practice gratitude every day include:
- Stay in the present moment
Often, thoughts turn to lack when the mind is mired in the future or the past. We think about what we don’t have or things that might go wrong or those that have gone wrong. But in the present moment, with food in front of us, or loved ones, or a good book, it’s easier to focus on the good things in life.
- Vow not to complain
Focusing on worries can make them loom larger in the mind. This can be a tricky step for people with chronic pain to navigate. If you’re in pain and need help, by all means, ask for it.
Complaining, on the other hand, does nothing to alleviate pain or improve a situation. Instead, it tends to magnify issues and makes you feel powerless over them. If you’re having a particularly bad pain day, try accepting that reality totally. Then, see if there’s something that can be done.
Focusing on the good things in life and developing feelings of gratitude may, over time, help improve the health, according to Harvard Health Publications. This takes practice, so try the best you can.
Every time you recognize your thoughts lingering over things that aren’t going well, try to change them to think about things that are going well. Irritation about standing in the line at the grocery store might change into, “I’m so thankful for all the food I’m about to buy.”
- End each day with thoughts about the things that went well
Sometimes, it’s easy to think about all the bad things that happened during the day, or the ways we messed up or could have done better. While it’s good to evaluate our lives and selves to identify areas of improvement, it’s better to end the day on a positive note.
Recognize small victories, like completing an exercise program or eating a healthy meal instead of junk food. Express gratitude for animals and people who love you and sunshine or rain.
How do you practice being grateful?
Image by Cedar Summit Farm via Flickr