It’s one of my favourite times of the year.
The trees are shifting in their life cycles, their leaves changing colors and the air is a crisper. This holiday is blessed with an attitude of gratitude without the hoopla of consumerism and gifts but the abundance of generational recipes, traditional meals and family connections.
Thanksgiving Day in Canada has been a national holiday on the second Monday of October since 1957. Traditionally the indigenous or native peoples of the Americas held ceremonies and festivals to celebrate in the fall, at the completion and bounty of the harvest long before European explorers and settlers arrived in what is now Canada.
Thanksgiving Day in Canada is linked to the customs of those occupying our land prior to our immigration here as well coupled with European traditions of harvest festivals. A common image seen at this time of year is a cornucopia filled with seasonal fruit and vegetables. The cornucopia, which means “Horn of Plenty” in Latin, was a symbol of bounty and plenty in ancient Greece. Turkeys, pumpkins, ears of corn and large displays of food are also used to symbolize Thanksgiving Day.
The parallel theme celebrated then and now is gratitude for the abundance we have been given.
And while I believe the sentiments of this holiday are wonderful, I also like to celebrate it as an opportunity to bring appreciation and giving back to a daily mindfulness practice. Healing benefits of gratitude remind us that it would be wise to encourage appreciation for the abundance we have received daily. Likewise, the healing benefits of giving also are powerful and advantageous for our happiness and health.
Gratitude, an immensely powerful force that we can expand our happiness, creates loving relationships, and even improves our health. Being thankful for what we have whether it’s the bed we sleep in, the people in our lives or the food we eat has been researched and studied to benefit not just the feelings of greater emotional well-being but expanded physical health as well.
Many scientific studies, including research by renowned psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, have found that people who consciously focus on gratitude experience are happier and healthier, body and mind. In comparison with non-grateful control groups, those who cultivated a thankful outlook felt better about their lives as a whole and experienced greater level of joy and happiness. They felt optimistic about the future, got sick less often, exercised more regularly and had more energy, enthusiasm, determination, and focus.
The Emmons/McCullough studies also found those with the attitude of gratitude on a regular basis made greater progress toward achieving important personal goals and felt stronger during times of challenge in their life, compared to the counterpart study group. Grateful people were shown to slept better and wake up the next day feeling more refreshed. Feelings of thankfulness promoted closer family ties, experienced few symptoms of stress and were more likely to help others and offer emotional support.
If you want to feel the benefits of feeling more appreciation and gratitude try some of this simply yet powerful routines:
Start your day in gratitude, either by sitting or sipping on your coffee or tea and simply breathing in and out with a mantra such as “I am so grateful for my life.”
Gratitude meditation and mantras: One of my favorite mantras that I say to myself is: “I am grateful for all that I have and all that I don’t have. When I allow gratitude to fill my heart, my body and mind feel better and everything shifts. Everything.”
Give thanks. Say thank you often. If you appreciate something, express it and communicate it. Write a note. Give a kind gesture in return. Celebrate it.
Journal. Start your page with “I am so happy and grateful for…” and let it flow. List anything and everything you are grateful for, small and grand.
Give. Find a way to give back. Volunteer. Do a selfless act that helps other people or your community. Be the reason why other people feel grateful.
If you want more happiness, joy, and energy, gratitude is a crucial quality to cultivate. It is a fullness of heart that moves us from limitation and fear to expansion and love. When we’re appreciating something, our ego moves out of the way and we connect with our heart. Gratitude brings our attention into the present, which is the only place that is reality. The deeper our appreciation, the more we see with the eyes of the heart and the more our life flows in harmony, leaving us happier and healthier.