• Lori Boyajian O’Neill: A grateful nation gives thanks today

  • Gratitude. The memory of the heart. The philosopher Seneca said, “Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.”

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  • Gratitude. The memory of the heart. The philosopher Seneca said, “Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.” Thanksgiving, at its heart, is a time for remembering, celebrating and being grateful. And so it is again, this Thursday, we collectively assemble in our homes and as a nation for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, what do you know? T or F?
    1. Sweet pies were likely served at the first Thanksgiving.
    2. Abraham Lincoln officially declared a national day of thanksgiving.
    3. About 90 percent of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day.
    Celebrations commemorating fall harvest are chronicled in Eqyptian, Greek and Roman history. The colonists brought their traditions to America, where the Native Americans had similar customs. Throughout American history, a day of thanks was observed but not until the 19th century did it become official. Abraham Lincoln established a national day of thanksgiving during the Civil War, “to ask God to commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife,” and to, “heal the wounds of the nation.” He declared the final Thursday of November for this day and so here we are.
    Our brains are hard wired to accept positive information and de-emphasize negative information. In general, those who describe themselves as grateful, even in the face of adversity, have lower rates of depression and stress-related diseases. Researchers at the University of Utah studied the immune systems of stressed out first year law school students. Those who characterized themselves as optimists had higher functioning immune systems as compared with their pessimistic peers. This is not just the feelings at a particular moment but rather a state of mind. What is your general state of mind? Would you classify yourself as an optimist or a pessimist. Do you see yourself as grateful or without gratitude? This may require some soul searching. Many psychologists recommend keeping a "gratitude journal" where thoughts can be entered and reviewed. What would be in your journal?
    The National Turkey Federation reports that 90 percent of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day. It does not report that 90 percent like turkey or even know how to cook one, but we Americans love traditions.
    Charles Schulz channeled the Thanksgiving spirit through the wisdom of his characters. Peppermint Patty cried, “What kind of Thanksgiving dinner is this? Where’s the turkey, Chuck? Don’t you know anything about Thanksgiving dinner? Where’s the mashed potatoes? Where’s the cranberry sauce? Where’s the pumpkin pie?!”
    Charlie Brown famously lamented, “I can’t cook a Thanksgiving dinner. All I can make is cold cereal and maybe toast.” But it was Marcie who echoed the thoughts of gratitude and captured the spirit of the day. “But Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck. You heard what Linus was saying out there. Those early Pilgrims were thankful for what had happened to them, and we should be thankful, too. We should just be thankful for being together. I think that’s what they mean by ‘Thanksgiving’, Charlie Brown.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Well said, Mr. Schulz. Happy Thanksgiving.
    Answers: 1. F, lack of sugar; 2. T; 3. T.
    Dr. Lori Boyajian-O’Neill can be contacted at lori.boyajian-oneill@hcahealthcare.com.

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