On November 1, 1777, by order of Congress, the first National Thanksgiving Proclamation was issued, officially designating it a day "…for solemn thanksgiving and praise. That with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts."
As we approach Thursday, you will likely see a flood of posts about gratitude. But we all already know that gratitude is a nice thing we should practice. This post is about something a little different—it's about a simple practice that can transform your Thanksgiving plans, no matter what they are.
I started practicing gratitude before I even knew what the word meant.
Every Thanksgiving growing up, whether I was in San Luis Obispo with relatives, New York with friends, or Maui with our family, there was one thing we had to do before partaking in the feast before us.
My Mom would sit down, ask us to hold hands, and then it was time to say our "thankfuls." My brother and I would begrudgingly hold hands as everyone at the table took turns expressing their gratitude.
I didn't fully appreciate the power of that tradition until very recently. While simple and slightly uncomfortable at the time, it has become one of my fondest childhood memories.
Those few minutes brought our family together, grounded us in all that was right in the world, and set us all on the same frequency before indulging.
Sometimes the things that make us uncomfortable are precisely the things we should be doing.
Before we dig into the anatomy of this thankfulness practice, I want to highlight some of the hard science on gratitude.
Gratitude sometimes has a "woo-woo" connotation. People think about it as a nice thing, but it's not something we pay significant attention to. Despite what people think, gratitude is a powerful thing.
Research from the folks at the Greater Good Science Center at U.C.-Berkeley, and countless others, has shown us that gratitude is one of the most beneficial practices for psychological and emotional well-being.
Harvard researchers recently revealed their results from a 75-year study and identified that strong relationships are the strongest indicator of a happy life. And sharing our appreciation with family is one of the easiest ways to reaffirm these important relationships.
On top of the happiness-boosting side effects of strong relationships, gratitude has been shown to have all kinds of positive results, such as: