The Thanksgiving Season is almost here! Somehow, I always feel like this holiday tends to get lost between Halloween and Christmas. Origin stories about the holiday seem to stir up controversy but I think the greater message of the tradition remains important to the fabric of what makes a great holiday that we should be bringing into our homes. That message is gratitude. Thanksgiving around the world in its various forms, whether steeped in religious or cultural traditions, is really a harvest festival to celebrate or blessings and exercise gratitude. Acknowledging this, in 1963, then President John F. Kennedy and congress proclaimed the fourth Thursday of November as a national day of Thanksgiving. I encourage you to look up what President Kennedy wrote in Proclamation # 3560. It’s a moving and heartfelt call to the nation to acknowledge our struggles, while taking action to continue to keep doing better. In it, he includes:
“Yet, as our power has grown, so has our peril. Today we give our thanks, most of all, for the ideals of honor and faith we inherit from our forefathers–for the decency of purpose, steadfastness of resolve and strength of will, for the courage and the humility, which they possessed and which we must seek every day to emulate. As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them……On that day let us gather in sanctuaries dedicated to worship and in homes blessed by family affection to express our gratitude for the glorious gifts of God; and let us earnestly and humbly pray that He will continue to guide and sustain us in the great unfinished tasks of achieving peace, justice, and understanding among all men and nations and of ending misery and suffering wherever they exist.”
While the proclamation may read as a broad call to national and global gratitude and action, it is applicable on a much smaller scale to families and individuals as well. When interviewing the truly successful in business they often attribute their accomplishments to thinking “big” but acting “small”. Peace, justice and understanding…empathy and compassion for those who are hurting is certainly needed on a large scale, and yet implementation must begin in ourselves, our families and our communities if we ever want to have a success that is measurable and has far reaching and lasting impact.
Gratitude has become a well studied topic. It is complex but can be summed up as a purposeful emotion that connects us to something greater than just ourselves, identifies what is valuable, is key to social relationships and is actionable. Practicing thought, speech and action that reflect gratefulness can be difficult when our own pain seems overwhelming. Yet, there truly is always something, even if ever so small, to be grateful for. Seeing it and claiming it requires intention and practice. When we acknowledge that gratitude, no matter how briefly, we claim success. Every small success creates momentum, such that one day you realize that your mindset has changed and you embody a way of living that is a life of gratitude. I do not claim mastery in this area. I have seen those who do. So, I have a vision of what can be. Take a moment to imagine how your life might be different if you started a practice of gratitude? How might your experience with your loved ones change? What is one thing you could do that would cause you to start recognizing and expressing gratitude? Is there something you can do as a family or with friends and your community that would build a lifestyle? That action might start around the Thanksgiving meal, but should be something you can continue to practice.
One of the things I’ve more recently adopted to make sure I am acknowledging the people to whom I owe gratitude and to increase and grow my awareness of how very much I have to be thankful for is to write and mail a note of sincere appreciation – sometimes to strangers!
I recently wrote such a note to a “celebrity” physician I highly admire. Not long after, that doctor called, asking my professional opinion on a matter. I am so grateful for her work, grateful for my work (that allowed me to be able to give her a solid answer) and for a connection that fosters mutual respect and growth. It feels so good to be able to offer value in return to someone I’ve learned so much from. I’ve had other similar experiences with this practice as well.
If you haven’t started acknowledging the things you are specifically grateful for- start now. Gratitude grows more reason to be even more grateful. Start now, so that by this time next year, “Happy Thanksgiving” will have become far more than a holiday, but a way of living.
Dr. Summer Beattie,ND was born and grew up in Southeawst Alaska – it will always be home. A 2004 graduate of Bastyr University, she served two terms on the board of directors for the Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians, and has worked in a variety of primary and specialty care settings. This has given her a broad wealth of experience that she now uses in a unique clinical practice with a focus on rejuvenative physical and aesthetic medicine. Dr. Beattie,ND offers comprehensive care as it relates to physical rehabilitation from a Naturopathic Orthopedic perspective. You can find her and on-line patient programs at www.onehealingmedical.com