Beyond the turkey and pumpkin pie

Remembering the true meaning of celebrating Thanksgiving

Illustration courtesy of Austina Wang

Illustration courtesy of Austina Wang

For many, Thanksgiving represents an excuse to eat five times as much food as usual, or a much-needed break from academics, or the day before the most important shopping spree of the year. Black Friday has increasingly encroached upon this holiday, resulting in families sometimes skipping the traditional Thanksgiving dinner to take advantage of sales.

Some people also work through Thanksgiving, believing that a simple holiday of gratefulness is not worth losing out on extra pay opportunities. Although Thanksgiving is threatened to be overrun by increasing commercialism and work, it is still an extremely important holiday to celebrate, not only to increase gratefulness but also improve quality of life.

Thanksgiving reminds us to slow down our fast-paced lives and appreciate the blessings we often overlook or cover with complaints. Too often we only take note when something in our lives goes wrong: forgetting homework at home, missing points on a test due to the absence of a negative sign or leaving an umbrella at home on the one day California gets a thunderstorm.

With so much going on in students’ everyday lives, it is natural to spend less time thinking about what is actually going right. Thanksgiving is therefore a crucial day for people to take a step back, adjust their perspective and remember to appreciate the details they usually forget.

According to Harvard Health Publications, expressing gratitude psychologically makes one happier and increases positive emotions in the brain. By giving thanks, people connect to a bigger purpose outside themselves and focus on what they have instead of what they lack, resulting in a greater sense of fulfillment and happiness.

Gratefulness tends to be lacking in a fast-paced, results-oriented society: when people focus too much on what they need to accomplish or gain they forget what they are already blessed with. This often results in depression and dissatisfaction, a problem more prevalent in our society than one might expect.

To combat this issue, instead of working even harder and faster, people should slow down and employ the traditional method of counting their blessings. Being thankful increases happiness and consequently increases their productivity, whether in the workplace or at school.

Thanksgiving is more than just a day to eat, look forward to shopping deals and visit with annoying relatives. It is a day to remind yourself of everything that’s going right in your life instead of focusing on the things that go wrong. It is a day to step back and trade day-to-day concerns for a bigger-picture sense of appreciation. It is a day to take a break and enjoy life so you will be happier and more productive tomorrow.

Wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving.