A number of nations around the world celebrate a Thanksgiving holiday. Yet, the central element of “giving thanks” is frequently overshadowed by the self-centered commercialism associated with Halloween and Christmas. In the United States, even before the shopping madness of America’s “Black Friday” (the day after Thanksgiving in the U.S. and one of the busiest shopping days of the year), retailers are already busy promoting items for Christmas.
However, at Thanksgiving, it is important to remember that being thankful on a personal and a national level has many physical and spiritual benefits. Modern research demonstrates that being personally thankful can protect against the negative consequences of focusing on personal success and indulgence. Harvard Medical School has reported in its “Healthbeat” newsletter, “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships” (“Healthbeat,” Harvard Health Publishing). In fact, gratitude has been positively associated with greater life satisfaction, personal happiness, and health (Psychology Today, November 22, 2015). As “Healthbeat” explained, “Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier, or thinking they can’t feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack” (Harvard Health Publishing).
In light of these findings, it is not surprising that the Bible admonishes us to be thankful. The Apostle Paul encouraged his audiences, “in everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and “do not cease to give thanks” (Ephesians 1:16). Being thankful changes our outlook and our focus. It helps us recognize what we have instead of what we desire. Thankfulness is a trait that God wants us all to develop, and interestingly, when we make the choice to be thankful, we are happier and healthier. For more insights into this important topic, read “Are We a Thankful Nation?”