Do you and your family have certain family traditions centered around the holidays?
Growing up, one Thanksgiving tradition in our family had to do with gratitude. My great aunt and uncle hosted the family in a special building they built on their ranch in central California. At each place setting were three kernels of (unpopped) corn, nestled in each spoon. Once everyone was seated around the huge table, Uncle Everett would begin by sharing three things for which he was grateful. He’d put his corn kernels in a cup and pass it to the next person. Around the table it would go!
Sometimes the sharing was funny: a 10-year-old cousin thankful that his puppy was getting better at peeing outside instead of inside. Sometimes sad: thankful for the life of a friend who had recently died. When the cup made it around the entire table, the once-empty cup was now nearly full. (It was a BIG family!) Uncle Everett would then hold it up for all to see, and pray a prayer of thanks to God, whom he said, had already been listening to everything we had said!
Who knew that years later, it would be scientifically proven that gratitude is good for one’s health?
Yep! A study was conducted at Harvard, that suggests that taking just five minutes a day, to “practice gratitude” can result in participants experiencing less anxiety and depression, and greater contentment and happiness.
Dr. Shawn Achor, a psychologist who teaches at Harvard, suggests that we can train our brains to become more grateful by setting aside just five minutes, during which one records three things for which one is thankful. That’s it! Simple.
They don’t have to be major – like starting a new job or the birth of a baby. Rather, the items had to concrete and specific such as “I’m thankful for my daughter’s hug.” Or, “I’m thankful that my boss complimented my work.” The participants simply expressed thanks for three specific things at the same time every day.
At the end of one month, the researchers followed up and found that those who practiced gratitude—including those who stopped the exercise after one week—were happier and less depressed. Remarkably, after three months, the participants who had been part of the one-week experiment were still more joyful and content. Incredibly, after the six-month mark, former participants were still reaping the benefits! The researchers hypothesized that the simple practice of writing down three thanksgivings a day over the course of a week, primed the participants’ minds to search for the good in their lives.
I have tried to carry forth this Thanksgiving tradition — of the corn kernels — with my own family. However, I’ve discovered that often we can think of and name more than three items each! In my mind’s eye, I can see Uncle Everett holding the cup of corn kernels, as it overflows with our various “thanksgivings”!
May it be so for you and yours! Feeling the warmth of the sun on a frosty day, wearing new socks and old mittens, whatever it is that you are thankful for—be sure to share it with someone you love! And remember: “Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God, the Creator of all light, and God shines forever without change or shadow” — James 1:17 LB