As soon as Halloween was over this year (and in fact, a few days before), the stores filled with Christmas. Decorations, wrapping, gifts, lights, cards, trees, ornaments…you name it, and it was filling the aisles. Although I am accustomed to the hype and commercialism of our retail culture, it is starting to feel as though Thanksgiving is being overlooked. These days, it seems like Thanksgiving is treated as the starting line for the Christmas shopping race, and not much more than that.
This makes me rather sad…not just because I love to cook, or because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It makes me sad to think that our culture gives no more than a cursory nod to Thanksgiving, as we mow it down on the way to the checkout line, Black Friday purchases in hand.
All political commentary on the origins of Thanksgiving aside, it is supposed to be a time of gratitude and reflection. We gather with family and community, give thanks for the blessings in our lives (however we define that), and share with one another…food, company, warmth, hospitality, comfort. I have to wonder about the overshadowing of this holiday, and if it is deliberate on the part of big retailers and the corporate culture in general. After all, we Americans do not live in a culture that values gratitude and humility…we live in a culture of BUY MORE NOW. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Black Friday has gradually become Black Thursday Night, and then Black Thursday Evening…will Thanksgiving be crowded out completely?
As a therapist, I’ve read multiple articles and studies about the power of gratitude, and how it can impact our lives in measureable ways. Gratitude is incorporated into so many psychological theories and techniques that dissertations could be written on the topic. The biggest reason for this? It works. Employing an “attitude of gratitude” helps to alleviate depression, decrease anxiety, strengthen relationships, and improve overall mood and outlook.
Not sold on the idea? Try it! As Thanksgiving approaches, spend a little time each day being aware of the good things that are happening around you, no matter how small. Notice when someone lets you merge in traffic, when a barista doesn’t charge you for the extra whipped cream, or if someone holds the door open for you. Notice the love that is present in your life, and take an extra second to cherish laughter, hugs, conversation, smiles. I have no doubt that this will help you give more sincere and joyful thanks as you sit down to your holiday dinner…because truly, there is always something to be thankful for.