“if we acquire a good through exchange, effort or achievement, or by right, then we don’t typically feel gratitude. Gratitude is an emotion we feel in response to receiving something good which is undeserved” – Lacewing

I’m going to follow up my last post about Thanksgiving with another one – there is just too much to talk about when it comes to this food-centered holiday.  Last time we addressed the idea of combining holidays and celebrations with foods – instead of combining them with meaning or other traditions. If food is the only thing that gives a moment significance and you try and take away the food (for health reasons or to lose weight or for something else altogether, like food allergies) then you feel deprived and left out of the celebration altogether.  

Most of the food-centeredness is there because of the food industry – because it is profitable.  Similarly, most of the Christmas shopping drama is there for the retail industry – to turn a profit.  Maybe it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate our priorities.  Do we really want to keep making holidays and celebrations just about food?  What is the point of that?  If 70% of American adults suffer from excess weight and 20% of American kids suffer from excess weight and those numbers are rising rapidly, is our culture serving us well?   Is it really bringing us joy and happiness?  

Maybe it’s time to reclaim the purpose of some of our holidays and celebrations.  Move the dialogue away from just food and bring it back to something else.  

Thanksgiving is really about being grateful for all that we have – and for celebrating the fall harvest.  For those of you out there that are farming and harvesting – God bless you – it’s hard work and you deserve a day of rest (you deserve more than that, but go with me on this one).  For the rest of us that aren’t working our tails off harvesting, it should be about gratitude and being thankful.

It shouldn’t just be about eating turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing and pumpkin pie.  In today’s world, we can eat those any day we want to.

Thanksgiving is about being thankful – about being grateful.

I started keeping a gratitude journal at the beginning of 2020.  Making a deliberate choice to focus on what I am grateful for every morning has been a game-changer as far as my mood and my attitude.  Every morning, before I start my day, I sit down at my desk and write down 5 things that I’m grateful for.  My rule is that they can’t be vague – I can’t just write down the names of my three kids and my parents – they have to be specific to something that happened in the past 24 hours.  Which makes me start my day off with a little smile and a good attitude.  

More importantly, it also makes me aware of good things that are happening around me throughout the day – so that I can store those things away in my memory to pull out the next morning.  Subconsciously, I watch for things to be grateful for and keep them fresh in my mind.  

When you start looking for things, you end up finding them all over the place.  It’s like that car analogy- when you decide you are going to buy a white Toyota Highlander, you start seeing white Toyota Highlanders everywhere you go.  It’s not that everyone else has suddenly made the same purchasing decision – they have always been there – it’s that your brain in now cued into white HIghlanders and it starts seeing them more because they have moved to the top of the “thinking about them” list.  

What are you grateful for today? 

Who are you grateful for today?

Enjoy the people that you have around you this Thanksgiving – whether they are sitting next to you or staring at you on a group zoom call or if you are just looking at their picture on your mantle while you call them on the phone.  If you are spending this holiday alone, spend time writing hand-written notes to your people.  Hand-written notes or cards or letters (with words in them) mean the world to most people.  Let your people know why you are grateful for them – I’m sure they would love to hear the reasons!

And start a new tradition that doesn’t involve food!

be strong – be grateful – be happy

Courtney Younglove, M.D.