We all know the story. 

Pilgrims braved a harrowing trip across the Atlantic Ocean to settle in a land where freedom could ring.  They would never have survived the first winter without the assistance of the people already living here. And to celebrate their gratitude, they came together for a grand feast. 

In 1789, President George Washington declared Thursday, November 26, “for the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving.” And Thanksgiving became the first national holiday.

The facts behind the story might be rife with controversy. But I find the idea of being thankful that I find intriguing.

I’m not blind. I know there’s much around us that’s frightening and wrong. People are suffering. Who wants to be thankful in the middle of all that? Furthermore, the human brain is designed to problem-solve, not appreciate. We have to override this design to reap the benefits of gratitude.

Is it worth the effort? 

According to the Mayo Clinic, the answer is yes. Studies show that feeling thankful can improve sleep, mood and immunity. Gratitude can decrease depression, anxiety, difficulties with chronic pain, and the risk of disease.

If a pill that could do that, everyone would be popping them. 

Just like exercise, behavior changes biology. Positive gestures benefit you by releasing oxytocin, the feel-good hormone. Experts suggest starting your day by being thankful for something or someone. And if you’re thankful for a person, you’ll also benefit them. After all, who doesn’t like to be thanked for their efforts or just for being who they are? 

Whether you keep a gratitude journal or keep it simple, giving every day a shot of thanksgiving is good medicine.

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