Thanksgiving And Health: An Everyday Relationship

Maybe we’re getting it wrong.

I overheard someone say one Thanksgiving Day, “You know, there should be 364 days a year of thanks-giving and one day for griping.”

Now there’s an idea.

With each passing year, it seems like the Thanksgiving holiday faces stronger and ever earlier competition from the Christmas consumerism so aggressively urged upon us.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the true meaning of Christmas.  But when holiday shopping ads start the week before Halloween, the gratitude that should accompany the approach of Thanksgiving tends to get drowned out.

© Glow Images
© Glowimages

Thanksgiving Day is too special to let that happen.  And giving thanks needn’t be relegated to a single day, or even to a season.  It’s something we can do every day of the year.  In addition to having us identify the good in our lives, which can help ward off the depression that we hear is more prevalent at this time of year, gratitude has been shown to be beneficial in other ways.

In fact, the health-giving effect of acknowledging blessings has been so widely studied and proven, it can literally be said that gratitude is good medicine.

A WebMD article by Elizabeth Heubeck called, “Boost Your Health With a Dose of Gratitude”, begins: “What would happen if we extended the tradition of giving thanks, typically celebrated just once a year during the holiday season, throughout the entire year?”

She quotes from a WebMD interview with Dr. Robert Emmons, Ph.D., professor at the University of California, Davis, considered a leading expert on gratitude. He says that reduction of stress and enhancement of our immune system are two health-giving benefits of a grateful state of mind.

But what if it seems like we have nothing left to be grateful for? Like refugees from war torn regions who have lost “everything” or when events in our lives make us feel devastated.

Could it be that it’s especially in the face of dire circumstances that gratitude can lift us up and help heal broken hearts and even broken bodies?

That is what I have been finding as a Christian Science Practitioner. I pray daily for healing in my life and others’ and I’ve found that being grateful before I see improvement – when it seems there’s nothing yet to be grateful for – can work wonders. I learned this from the Bible. It’s a method Jesus used more than once.

Perhaps the most dramatic example was when Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead. After Lazarus died, he was placed in a cave and by the time Jesus arrived, he had already been mourned for four days. Despite that vivid evidence of a hopeless situation, he stood in front of the cave-tomb and practiced thankfulness. Jesus prayed to God out loud: “Father, thank you for hearing me.” Then he called to his friend. And Lazarus walked out of his own tomb.

True, we are not often called upon to raise the dead. But could that example apply in our daily lives?

I’ve found it can. I’ve noticed that the more consistently I give daily thanks – without making it just a ritual, so my heart’s still in it – the more natural it is to do so in a difficult situation.

Recently I pulled a leg muscle and was in a lot of pain. In seeking healing that night, I lingered on deep gratitude for God’s goodness and for the blessings in my life which I attribute to God. I continued being grateful, even when I woke up in the middle of the night still in pain. By morning my leg was much better. By the next day it was completely normal.

Year-round thanks-giving? It’s definitely a healthy and satisfying to go!