Thanksgiving is a holiday for families and foodies, sending some of us into a glorious frenzy of baking and recipe testing and others into a state of anxiety at the prospect of forging a family truce not unlike brokering a cease-fire in the Middle East for just as long as it takes to devour turkey and all the trimmings.
But whether you anticipate the holiday with trepidation or with enthusiasm, it is always a reminder of how much we have to be thankful for: our homes, our health, our faith, our friends and family, our freedom.
Jesus healed 10 lepers on his way to Jerusalem, but only one returned to thank him. “‘Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?’ Then he said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has saved you’” (Luke 17: 17-19).
Clearly, Christ expects us to praise God and give him thanks. It is our duty. And it leads to an even greater healing for the one who returned: Your faith has saved you.
An added benefit
But there is yet another reason to give thanks. It actually makes us happy.
In recent years, psychologists have begun looking into what makes us truly happy. They have found that happy people are healthier, more successful and more socially engaged (and vice-versa). And they have made some eye-opening discoveries. For example, we have many misconceptions about happiness. We think, “If only I won the lottery, I would be happy,” (wrong) or, “If I were in an accident and became a paraplegic, I could never be happy” (wrong again).
The mistake is to assume that happiness depends on our circumstances. In fact, we create our own happiness.
People who are openly and directly thankful increase their happiness. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center discovered that an intervention known as the “gratitude visit” not only made people happier and less depressed immediately, but the positive effects lasted for an entire month! The gratitude visit involves writing and delivering – in person – a letter expressing thanks to someone in your life who has been particularly kind but whom you’ve never properly thanked.
Of course, St. Paul knew about the connection between thankfulness and joy. He wrote, “Rejoice always…In all circumstances, give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18). And “Rejoice in the Lord always! I shall say it again: rejoice!…Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God” (Philippians 4:4-6).
How grateful are you? Find out by taking the gratitude questionnaire here.