As the holiday season is once again upon us, it is a perfect time to reflect on the true meaning of the season. This year, as we return to more normal types of gatherings following the pandemic, hopefully we appreciate the season even more and especially the wonderful gift of spending time, in person, with the ones we love.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we should all count our blessings and be thankful for our family and friends. Sharing good food and wine with family and friends can mean more than the elaborate gifts we might receive this holiday season. Taking the time to share moments together and make memories that will last a lifetime is something we should never take for granted. It can be tough to put the phones away, but give it a try this year, at least for a little while. You can always share your photos later on your social media and include all the parties and holiday dinners you attend. The best gifts are often the time and attention of our loved ones.
Thanksgiving also reminds many to volunteer to help the less fortunate, but there are poor and suffering people all year round. Making time to help others helps put things into perspective for many people.
It would be wise to remember Epicurus: “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” For those in search of more modern philosophy: “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” – Oprah Winfrey.
Giving thanks is a part of the daily practice in the Greek Orthodox Christian tradition, though we may sometimes forget to be thankful. It might even be a good idea for some of us to write down the things we are thankful for every day and get into the habit of seeing the glass half full instead of half empty.
Studies have shown that a positive attitude has great impact on a person’s health. The Mayo Clinic lists increased life span, lower rates of depression, lower levels of distress, greater resistance to the common cold, and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease among the health benefits of positive thinking. A “glass half empty” person can actually retrain his or her brain and become a more positive person with daily effort.
At times, we can be our own harshest critic. When faced with challenges, we say “I can’t because I’ve never done this before,” when we should say “I will try and learn something new.” Giving yourself permission to laugh or even just smile during difficult times can also make a difference. Along with eating right and exercising, a positive outlook and being thankful can help us live longer, healthier lives so we can enjoy the time we share with our loved ones and make the world a better place. It also helps to remember, like the cheeky memes online say, the glass is refillable.