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Stuffing: The Real Value Of Thanksgiving

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Disclaimer:
I’m not a big fan of American holidays. 
The cultural critic in me can’t help but harp on the Hallmark-ization of
most of the majors.  I grew up more or
less godless: my family leveraged the time off school and work to hit the slopes
in Tahoe while everyone else was otherwise obliged.

There
were moments when this odd-one-out behavior spawned the desire for belonging in
me. Once, at a mediocre restaurant somewhere near the ski lifts, I ordered the
“Thanksgiving plate” just so I could sample the traditional trappings of the
day.  Over the years I’ve dabbled with
competitiveness: a mostly vegetarian foodie, I love to proffer a pre- or
post-Thanksgiving feast, sans bird, to tantalize my turkey-toting friends.
Turns out that I love Brussels sprouts, real stuffing, and my mom’s cranberry
sauce… but I’ll never look another Tofurkey in the unface.  If anyone would listen, I’d wager that I
could remember at least half of the words in Alice’s Restaurant.

Thanksgiving
has my vote as far as American holidays go. It’s a keeper.  Other than Martha Stewart, Thanksgiving does
not seem to fuel the eternal combustion engines of American consumption in the
way the other holidays do.  We may
consume a month’s worth of calories in one meal, but we don’t have to buy
gifts, cards, flowers, or champagne.

The
juxtaposition of Thanksgiving and Black Friday is not lost on me. On Thursday
we celebrate with cornbread stuffing and on Friday we celebrate with package
stuffing and credit card limit-pushing. 
On Thursday we fill our hearts and bellies with gratitude and food, and
on Friday we fill our trunks with superfluous consumer items.

It turns
out that, in spite of calories and tryptophan, Thanksgiving is a healthy
holiday. At least, the giving of thanks is a particularly healthy
practice.  In the last thirty years the
field of psychology has begun to get over its bad self and endeavor to study
the positive side of human emotions. 

Professor
Robert Emmons, one of those positivity pioneers, has a book pleasantly entitled
 Thanks! How the new science of gratitude can
make you happier.
  His premise, put
simply, is that we used to think we were born with a  certain degree of happiness, and that’s all
there was to it, but now we know that that happiness level can be changed by
being grateful.

In his
study, the first major academic research into the “science of gratitude,”
Emmons discovered that:

 A daily gratitude intervention
with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of
alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy…

Gratitude
intervention! Who would have thought?

And that:

Grateful individuals place less
importance on material goods; they are less likely to judge their own and
others success in terms of possessions accumulated; they are less envious of
others; and are more likely to share their possessions with others relative to
less grateful persons.

A true
scion of the me-generation and instant gratification addiction, I have to admit
that I like the idea that I can do something about how happy my life will be.  I like the idea, too, that it can be as easy
as spending a couple of moments being grateful, which is pretty easy.

This is
an easy one to try at home. As you prepare to spend the rest of the week in the kitchen, give yourself a gratitude
intervention.  If you’re a little rusty
with the gratitude, check in with a nearby kid. 
Once you get them rolling, kids can remind us to be grateful for the
darnedest things.

 Who knows, maybe you'll be happy with Thursday's stuffing and you won't have to go shopping on Friday.

 I cannot tell you anything that, in a few minutes, will
tell you how to be rich.  But I can tell
you how to feel rich, which is far better, let me tell you firsthand, than
being rich.  Be grateful… It’s the only
totally reliable get-rich quick scheme.

 — Ben Stein, actor,
comedian, economist

 

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