Which Thanksgiving?

Posted on Mon, Nov 24, 2008 @ 02:01 PM
America's holiday may not be just for pilgrims anymore . . .
First Thanksgiving

For some time now in America there has been a minor (and until fairly recently rather obscure) debate over where and when the first Thanksgiving celebration occurred. What early settlement was really the first to host a gathering of harvest gratitude? While New England certainly has well-documented reason to lay claim to the title, some historians point to a Thanksgiving celebration that occurred more than fifty years earlier in St. Augustine, Florida.

All debate aside, however, the point of Thanksgiving is to promote thankfulness, and according to researchers this is an attitude that can be good for individuals as well as families.  

Some interesting specifics from findings in positive psychology are noted here in a joint project undertaken by the University of California, Davis and the University of Miami:

Measuring the Grateful Disposition:

  • Well-Being:  Grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress.  The disposition toward gratitude appears to enhance pleasant feeling states more than it diminishes unpleasant emotions.  Grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life.
  • Prosociality: People with a strong disposition toward gratitude have the capacity to be empathic and to take the perspective of others.  They are rated as more generous and more helpful by people in their social networks (McCullough, Emmons, & Tsang, 2002).
  • Spirituality:  Those who regularly attend religious services and engage in religious activities such as prayer reading religious material score are more likely to be grateful.  Grateful people are more likely to acknowledge a belief in the interconnectedness of all life and a commitment to and responsibility to others (McCullough et. al., 2002). Gratitude does not require religious faith, but faith enhances the ability to be grateful.
  • Materialism:  Grateful individuals place less importance on material goods; they are less likely to judge their own and others success in terms of possessions accumulated; they are less envious of  others; and are more likely to share their possessions with others relative to less grateful persons.

All things considered, gratitude would seem to be an important ingredient to be sprinkled liberally around the family table at Thanksgiving celebrations this year—and every year to follow.

Tags: gratitude, thanksgiving, first thanksgiving, health benefits of gratitude, thanksgiving history