The ancient Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero wrote: “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”
And our understanding of its importance as a positive force in our lives has only increased since Cicero’s time. In fact, modern science shows that feeling and expressing gratitude offers tremendous benefits to the mind and the body.
That’s why I believe we should ALL strive to take a few moments—each and every day—to feel and express it…and especially TODAY, as we formally gather with family and friends to give thanks.
People have been taking time to pause and give thanks for millennia
Most of us probably learned in grade school that the Plymouth pilgrims started the American Thanksgiving tradition in the fall of 1621. But really—the idea of taking time to gather with extended family and neighbors and give thanks for the harvest didn’t begin in Plymouth at all!
Rather, Indigenous Americans have always expressed gratitude in the moment for any food they take from the Earth. And in western cultures, setting aside a day to give thanks dates back much farther than 1621…
For one, some type of Thanksgiving celebration probably occurred in Berkley Plantation in Virginia in 1619—two full years before the pilgrims landed in Plymouth. And it’s likely that even the English settlers in the ill-fated colony of Roanoke also celebrated some type of fall harvest celebration.
These Plymouth and Berkley plantation celebrations likely drew upon the old English holiday of “Harvest Home,” which dates back thousands of years to ancient Celtic traditions.
Plus, even the first Spanish settlers of St. Augustine, Florida celebrated a Thanksgiving of sorts…
In fact, on September 8, 1565, following a religious service, the Spanish settlers shared a celebratory meal with the local indigenous tribe. Of course, the Plymouth pilgrims served food freshly harvested from American soil at their first Thanksgiving. However, the Spanish settlers probably had to make do with whatever remained after their long voyage across the Atlantic.
Their offerings for the feast likely included a stew of salt pork and garbanzo beans, hard bread, and red wine. The indigenous tribe probably then added fresh, local food to the meal—such as alligator, bear, wild turkey, venison, tortoise, oysters, clams, beans, and squash.
Of course, even though Florida isn’t necessarily evocative of a traditional, northern setting in a Norman Rockwell painting, it’s still a great place to celebrate Thanksgiving. In fact, in recent years, we’ve been celebrating it right outside of Sarasota!
By late November, the rainy, hurricane season has ended. And the weather is pleasant throughout most of the state. There’s also a bounty of fresh fruit and seafood available to add to the table, in addition to more “traditional” foods, as prepared in the North.
Make time for gratitude
Now, before I go, I thought I’d share with you three things I’m thankful for this year…
1.) I’m thankful for all the delicious, healthy food we consume on Thanksgiving. Including organic turkey, carrots, fresh cranberries, squash, sweet potatoes, walnuts, yams, red wine, and more. All of which offer potent health benefits, as I often report—and reported on earlier this week.
2.) I’m thankful to spend time at Thanksgiving with friends and family. Including my one-year-old granddaughter, Charlotte Grace. This day together renews and refreshes relationships that last throughout the years. It also gives us a prime chance to practice being a good listener. In fact, new research shows that being a good listener can actually help improve brain health. I tell you all about it in the current issue of my monthly Insiders’ Cures newsletter (“Listen up! The silent way to boost brain health”). Not yet a subscriber? Click here to become one!
3.) I’m thankful for my work, my coworkers, and for you, dear reader. I’m grateful to have an avenue to inspire positivity, optimism, and hope to others—as you all do the same for me.
Perhaps you too can find some time today (or over the next few days) to write down a few things for which you’re thankful. Then, make a vow to do this practice daily. It can help change your outlook and make you a more “naturally” positive and optimistic person.
Of course, spending this gracious holiday with friends and family in itself can even increase your longevity. So kick back, relax, and enjoy the harvest’s bounty—together.
P.S. Gratitude is also a key feature in mindfulness meditation, as I describe in my book with Don McCown, New World Mindfulness.