It is a little known, undocumented opinion that our Thanksgiving Day celebration actually began as a potluck. Pocahontas took a liking to John Smith and said, "Hey, how about a sit down dinner this Thursday, say 5-ish? I bet you're pretty good with that musket and we've got crops to harvest."
Attendance was bountiful, as was the feast; full bellies generated grateful souls. Pocahontas announced that John Smith's smoked venison was the best ever, and the fire-roasted squirrel was over the top. Mr. Smith repaid the compliments, proclaiming that the corn fritters were absolutely a-maizing! They agreed that they simply must make this an annual event. Potlucking Day eventually evolved into the celebration as we know it - the fourth Thursday of November, Thanksgiving Day.
Thanksgiving has taken on a different flavor, so to speak. The newness having worn off, it's become more obligation, less celebration. We are not only obliged to attend, we are obliged to partake. Does this sound familiar? Pig out. Nap. Pig out. Revive self from a carb-induced coma, catch the end of "It's a Wonderful Life," and resume nibble-age on the turkey drumstick you are still clutching. If you live to be 80, you will have celebrated, well, 80 Thanksgivings, eaten 500 pounds of mashed potatoes and gravy, 116 turkey legs, 327 slices of pumpkin pie and 95.5 tubs of cool whip (numbers may vary according to individual appetites, of course).
Thankfulness, or gratitude, has taken on a different flavor as well; so much so, psychologists are conducting studies to find out how gratitude ties in with happiness and well-being. Dr. Robert Emmons, of the University of California, wanted to know if the practice of daily gratitude could actually transform lives, so he began "The Gratitude Experiment" (www.gratitude-experiment.com).
The results of his study indicate that participants who were grateful felt more joyful, enthusiastic, interested, attentive, energetic, excited, determined and strong, in addition to offering others more emotional support or help than those non-practitioners. He believes that those who practice intentional gratitude sleep better, are less often depressed and are also physically healthier. Could this be yoga for the psyche?
According to Wallace D. Wattles, author of, "The Science of Getting Rich," the grateful mind is constantly fixed on the best. This is because the secret to feeling gratitude is to consciously, and specifically, acknowledge the source of your gratitude. The concept is to be thankful for the most basic things, like feeling gratitude for the fact that you have unlimited hot water in your shower every day. Or that your dog is always happy to see you when you come home. And not just because you remember to feed him most of the time.
When asked why gratitude should make such a big difference in his life, "Zen Habits" writer stated that it's "because it reminds you of what's important. It's hard to complain about the little things when you give thanks that your children are alive and healthy. It's hard to get stressed out over paying bills when you are grateful there is a roof over your head."
Doris Day said, "Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty."
Loads of people have something to say about gratitude, probably to try to get us to focus more on being grateful and less on roasted turkey.
So how do you become more like that guy who is joyful, enthusiastic, excited, determined and strong? Cop an attitude of gratitude. Work thankfulness into your day. And, ask the question, what would Pocahontas do? I'll tell you what she would do. Pocahontas would say, "thank you!" Then she would rear back and rejoice in gratitude and shout, "corn fritters, you rock! Anyone want to share that last piece of squirrel?"
Debbie Barnes lives in Eagle with her husband, Ray, who provides inspiration for most of her writing; sometimes unknowingly. E-mail comments about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.