This is a guest post by my colleague, Monica Karal.
Stopping momentarily to recognize the good in our lives, and to quietly give thanks, is like watching a sunrise illuminate the day. It sheds light on the good things so we can enjoy and nurture them, and helps dispel the darkness or dissatisfaction with what we supposedly lack.
In a culture where ads try to convince us we always need more, and some sectors of society purportedly have an entitlement mentality, it’s worthwhile to step back and reflect on who we are, what we have, and what really satisfies.
Monday is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. The roots of Thanksgiving have been traced back to European harvest celebrations. Some say the first Thanksgiving in North America was celebrated in the eastern Arctic in 1578 by English explorer Martin Frobisher and crew, who expressed thanks for their safe arrival.
Canadian Thanksgiving has also been traced back to French settlers who came with explorer Samuel de Champlain to New France in the early 1600s, and held feasts of thanks. Yet, long before Europeans arrived in Canada, First Nations communities thanked the Creator for the fertility of the land and the abundance of harvests. In 1879, Parliament proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving to God “for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.”
Here’s what Canadian author (and NY Times bestseller) Ann Voskamp offers about gratitude: “The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world.”
Thankfulness is an art that helps us “bring fullest Light to all the world.” It’s a way of reframing thought and experience. I’ve found it can even bring healing to relationships. When interacting with individuals who seem difficult, I find that looking for their good qualities, and being grateful for the things they do for others, shifts the focus away from irritations and helps me redirect the conversation on a constructive path.
Current research is even examining whether there is a “science” to thankfulness, where applying certain principles yields consistent results. Researchers at Yale and University of California (Davis) report that grateful individuals experience more love, joy and enthusiasm, and are shielded from destructive sentiments such as bitterness, greed and envy. They cope better with stress, recover more quickly from illness, and have better immune systems.
Internationally renowned gratitude researcher Robert Emmons notes that gratitude fosters health when the motive is to experience emotional and spiritual prosperity as part of a purposeful life focused on love and generosity, rather than material gain.
I’ve found that practicing gratitude has opened my thought to the presence of a higher power. I figure that the best things in life, especially the beauties of nature and the joy of connecting with others, must have a spiritual source. Not some bearded guy on a cloud. But rather, a spiritual Source that is divine Life, Soul, Love. I connect with this Light, or eternal source of good, through Bible study and prayer, as inspired ideas come to help me see life through a spiritual lens and open up new possibilities.
Fostering a climate of appreciation and gratitude can enhance relationships, neutralize negativity, and strengthen communities. There is likely much more to discover about the art and science of thankfulness.
Monica Karal is a Montreal writer exploring the links between consciousness, spirituality, health and progress. She is the media contact for Christian Science in Quebec. Contact her at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: SanteQc
This article is published in Metroland Media news editions throughout Ontario. Read here in Simcoe News.