Turkey thanks with a little religion

Leave it to the experts to tell us how to deal with the in-laws, the five pounds we’re bound to gain and the tragedy of whatever football teams lose today.

Thanksgiving isn’t just a holiday, after all. You can change your whole attitude about life with some simple strategies, so says the New York Times.

The most psychologically correct holiday of the year is upon us.

Thanksgiving may be the holiday from hell for nutritionists, and it produces plenty of war stories for psychiatrists dealing with drunken family meltdowns. But it has recently become the favorite feast of psychologists studying the consequences of giving thanks.

I enjoyed the intro to the story, but the bursts of advice were a bit obvious to me. Start a journal, say thank you, don’t counterattack, conduct a “gratitude visit.” The possibilities really are endless. The author sought advice from a series of experts, naturally found from people with a PhD after their name.

In the piece, there’s one little section in the piece that deals with faith, but it’s rather brief.

Contemplate a higher power. Religious individuals don’t necessarily act with more gratitude in a specific situation, but thinking about religion can cause people to feel and act more gratefully, as demonstrated in experiments by Jo-Ann Tsang and colleagues at Baylor University. Other research shows that praying can increase gratitude.

This section isn’t quite clear to me. Thinking about religion in general causes people to feel grateful? So if I’m just thinking about Buddhism, I’ll produce a thankful spirit? Something tells me participation in religious rituals might have something to do with it, if you attend a service, pray, do meditation, or something, but it’s unclear from the description what specifics the survey found.

A piece from Ansley Roan at CNN’s Belief Blog explores some new religion details.

While gratitude is a perennial topic in religion publishing, today’s books differ from those being published 10 years ago, according to Marcia Z. Nelson, associate religion editor for Publishers Weekly.

“Since 2008, I’ve seen many religion books that are almost a prophetic cry against greed and excess,” she said. “The two things are related, ‘Be grateful for what you have.’ ‘You have more than enough.’ But I don’t see the same focus on gratitude, so much as being content.”

Research shows that feelings like gratitude and contentment don’t always come easily.

“There’s something called the negativity bias,” said Rubin, the author. “Anything that’s negative catches our attention better than things that are positive. So having some kind of strategy can remind you of things to be grateful for.”

Be assured, your Facebook feed will be filled today with little tributes of thanks for family and friends. It’s unclear whether that will do anything to boost your spirits, but it won’t be surprising if you find mentions of faith here and there.

Pumpkin image via Shutterstock.

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  • Jerry

    I enjoyed the intro to the story, but the bursts of advice were a bit obvious to me.

    Yesterday, my acupuncturist gave me some advice that seemed to us to be obvious. I said in reply “common sense isn’t”. By which I mean that we can easily forget the obvious and so it’s helpful to many to be reminded from time to time.

    Modern life makes it easy to forget that today is all about giving thanks. In fact, I’d rather it be called “Giving Thanks Day” rather than “Thanksgiving” because it makes the true purpose of the day a bit more obvious.

    the five pounds we’re bound to gain

    Somehow today has become a celebration and encouragement of gluttony. To a people on the edge of starvation, having a good meal can engender feelings of gratitude. But in modern times it’s just an excuse to overeat.

    I tried but could not find any news stories that did not involve eating. I did find a couple of stories about celebrities serving food to the poor and how to be a glutton without guilt, but that’s it so far outside of the research on the psychological and physiological effects of gratitude.

  • Bill

    When those Pilgrims who survived the starvation, disease and depravation of the first few years gave a feast to celebrate and give thanks, their predicament was far more precarious than ours. When George Washington proclaimed a national holiday of gratitude, the republic was on the weak legs of a newly born colt.


    We lack not blessings but thanks. In quiet moments I count mine. I see the faces I love and am humbled by my riches.

    Happy Thanksgiving. And God bless you all.

  • Dave

    Happy Thanksgiving, GR!

  • Jerry

    A coda to my last comment. While reading my local paper, one columnist mentioned asking some young kids in a local Christian school what they were grateful for. I thought that was a nice idea.

  • http://christiantoo.com Jay Martin

    Thanksgiving is definitely a strange holiday. Seems like part of some long term conspiracy to erase the fact that we wiped out an entire country of people.

    It’s all what you make of it. I enjoyed calling my family members today and reflecting on the past year’s gifts and fortunes.

    I hope everyone made the best of their day.

  • Courtney Joyce

    The religious duty, and pleasure, of thanksgiving to God was

  • Deacon Michael D. Harmon

    Ah, yes, all of American history wrapped up in a conspiracy to cover up the fact tht, “we wiped out an entire country of people.” Certainly we demonstrated cruelty to them, and we also demonstrated kindness — as they did both to us. The real truth of the matter is, that if we had arrived with nothing but Christian charity in hand, the innate and inevitable worldview conflict between a stone-age culture that hadn’t even invented the wheel and a culture that had globe-spanning technology and gunpower would have overwhelmed the native peoples anyway. There could have been a lot less misery along the way, but recall that Indian tribes didn’t exactly treat each other with the milk of human kindness, so there was plenty of misery here before we arrived. Are the Aztecs cutting out human hearts on their temples these days, the Caribs boiling their neighbors, the Sioux attacking the Blackfoot, or the Iroquois wiping out the Hurons? (A Huron ancestor of mine survived only because she married a Frenchman and moved to Quebec City.) A continent full of people and no open land discovered a continent with relatively few inhabitants with most of it unoccupied. What do you think was going to happen, considering the fallen nature of the human heart — on both sides of the ocean? And then, despite that, despite slavery, despite materialism, despite our ignoring Him in so many ways, God chose to bless the new nation anyway. And that nation confronted Fascism and Communism and defeated them both.
    So it is not wrong to thank Him for it. And repent of our many sins along the way.

  • MJBubba

    What conspiracy of American history? The schools certainly include this aspect of history; the homeschool history texts we used for our kids included it; I recall it being brought up clearly in a high school class in 1969; it is not hushed up or hidden away by any means. Being thankful to God that you live in America, the land of plenty and the land of opportunity, with real individual rights, is in no way dismissive of the sins of the past or disrespectful to the folk on the lower rungs of the ladder.