I grew up in a family that prayed before every single meal.
While in principle I believe that this was a great activity, I remember thinking, “this is so boring!” rather than “I am so thankful!.”
It did not help that my father’s prayers were often long, monotonous and sprinkled with lengthy pauses, sometimes causing my siblings and I to get the giggles.
We did not have the insight to realize that we actually did have something to be thankful for.
As an adult, I have a greater respect and understanding for this tradition, especially in the light of what is happening in countries such as Syria right now.
Thanksgiving provides us a perfect opportunity to start a practice of gratitude.
Gratitude, or being thankful, allows us to take a moment to affirm that there are good things in the world and that we all have received at least some blessings in our life.
Scientists have been studying gratefulness in recent years, and it appears that there are many health benefits to giving thanks.
These include increasing people’s happiness and life satisfaction, boosting the immune system and improving sleep.
People who regularly give thanks are also more likely to take better care of their health, including healthy eating and regular exercise. Newer research suggests that gratitude is healthy for our children.
In one study, the middle school students asked to keep track of five things they were grateful for daily reported more positive emotion and optimism, greater satisfaction with life and greater connectedness to their community than those who did not.
There are many ways to practise gratitude, and they do not have to be said around the table.
Gratitude can be practised through journaling, meditation or doing a kind act for someone else.
This Thanksgiving, as you enjoy your Thanksgiving meal, take a moment to think about where the delicious food came from, who helped prepare it, and all the people with whom you are enjoying the meal.
One can only hope the health benefit of feeling thankful will outweigh any health effects of overindulging on this meal!
-Serena Caner is a registered dietician who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.