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How Thanksgiving and Gratitude Affect Your Health

In the year 1620, a group of 102 Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts on board the Mayflower. They’d weathered a treacherous 66 day crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, only to find themselves victims of a brutally cold winter. They suffered exposure, poor health, and disease, with many of them staying on the ship for months. With all their trials they were still thankful to have the opportunity for a better life in this new land.

thanksgiving_and_gratitude_improve_your_health_picWhen at last spring arrived they planted their gardens, including a new crop supplied by the local Native Americans that they called corn. By autumn of 1621, prompted by a bountiful harvest, the Plymouth Colonists and the Wampanoag Indians celebrated, giving thanks and gratitude for the blessings of a favorable harvest.

This annual tradition was finally canonized as a national holiday, called Thanksgiving, by the Continental Congress in 1777, and then in 1941 it was permanently established as the 4th Thursday in November. A national day of giving thanks is also recognized, for similar reasons, by many other countries throughout the world.

I believe that Thanksgiving is much more than an annual holiday where we over-eat and watch football. In fact, social scientists have determined that the quickest way to experience true happiness is to express gratitude. Of all the traits that contribute to a happy and content life, nothing surpasses gratitude. Generally, grateful people are just happier. I find it of interest that it’s not happiness that brings on gratitude; it’s gratitude that brings us happiness. Being thankful seems to be at the very root of joy.

I’ve had the privilege of travelling all over the world, and noticed that many people with the fewest “things” are the happiest. I actually think that gratitude turns what we have into enough.

So what are you thankful for? Really. We’ve celebrate this beloved holiday of Thanksgiving for hundreds of years just because a small group of people, who had almost nothing, were grateful that their corn crop was good that fall.

how_thanksgiving_and_gratitude_affect_your_health_picNo matter your beliefs, you can be thankful for your health, your family, your friends, and your freedom. The Vietnamese have a proverb that says, “When you eat a fruit, think of the person who planted the tree.”

I recently read a quote attributed to Jenkin Lloyd Jones that sums it up for me and I’ll quote it for you. “Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to be just people, most successful relationships require a high degree of mutual toleration, and most jobs are more often dull than otherwise…

“Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you ride.”

Enjoy the ride, warriors. Be fiercely grateful, give generously, and you will be happier than most.

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