Hands down Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday – a time for family, food, football and a time to reflect on the things I am most grateful for.
However, as COVID-19 cases still surge across the country and within our communities, this Thanksgiving will look greatly different than it ever has before. Large gatherings and travel will be canceled or postponed. We will forgo in-person visits with family members, especially those who are older or medically fragile. And for some of us, we may be mourning the loss of those with whom we will not spend another holiday. That’s why this Thanksgiving, gratitude is more important than ever.
What is Gratitude?
According to Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis and one of the world’s leading scientific experts on gratitude, gratitude consists of two parts:
- Awareness of goodness in the world, and
- Acknowledgement that the source of this goodness is outside of ourselves.
Dr. Emmons says that we experience gratitude when we perceive and appreciate the positive aspects of life. Gratitude does not minimize or ignore the hardships and complications of life – it simply calls on us to recognize the goodness that exists.
Practicing gratitude effects your total well-being
Research on gratitude shows that people who regularly practice gratitude experience improvements in their physical, psychological, and social well-being. These benefits include:
- Being more helpful, generous, and compassionate
- Decreased depression
- Stronger immune systems
- Fewer aches and pains
- Lower blood pressure
- Better sleep
- Increased feelings of joy, optimism, and happiness
- Feeling less lonely and isolated
- Reduced stress
When asked what she was most grateful for this Thanksgiving, RE/MAX Metro realtor Estelia Mesimer had this to say,
“I’m grateful for the love of family & friends; I’m grateful for my own resilience. The lockdown showed me how to take care of myself and to learn to accept and understand things I can’t change; and
I’m grateful to clients, both old & new, who have helped me build my business.”
Keep a gratitude journal
Each day take time out to write down a few things that you personally appreciate or are thankful for in your life. It will keep you focused and will help you look on the bright side of life.
Other ways to show your gratitude – reach out to friends, family, or others. Write a letter, make a call, or send a text to let them know you’re thankful for them. Find the good in some of life’s less exciting moments by changing your perspective. Cultivate generosity. This can mean donating time, money, or other resources and it can include being generous with your kindness and compassion.
Hosting a Thanksgiving Gathering
Celebrating virtually or with the people you live with is the safest choice this Thanksgiving. If you choose to celebrate by having guests to your home, here are some recommendations from the CDC to make Thanksgiving safer for everyone:
- Have a small outdoor meal with family and friends who live in your community
- Limit the number of guests
- Have conversations with guests ahead of time to set expectations for celebrating together
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between use
- If celebrating indoors, bring in fresh air by opening windows and doors, if possible. You can use a window fan in one of the open windows to blow air out of the window. This will pull fresh air in through the other open windows.
- Limit the number of people in food preparation areas
- Have guests bring their own food and drink
- If sharing food, have one person serve food and use single-use options, such as plastic utensils
For more CDC Thanksgiving Day guidelines and recommendations, go to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays/thanksgiving.html
Related Reading: Books by Robert Emmons, Ph.D.
Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier
Gratitude Works!: A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity
The Little Book of Gratitude