What was the first Thanksgiving like? We know that this harvest dinner with Pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans was after a devastatingly harsh winter. Forty-eight of the original 102 Pilgrims had died of scurvy or exposure. The Native American populations had just suffered a lethal plague, with some villages suffering a 90% death rate. The Patuxet village where the Pilgrims first colonized was completely wiped out. And yet amidst these extreme challenges and sufferings, the 1621 Thanksgiving party joined together to pray, share their harvest, have fun and express gratitude. (One of the games played was literally, “Kick the Shins”. You may want to watch football instead!)
If gratitude can be expressed in 1621, it can certainly be repeated in our relatively comfortable lives in 2014.
To enhance your gratitude, consider doing an easy three-minute exercise called, “Three Good Things.” Just before you go to sleep each night, write down three good things that went well during the day and what your role was in bringing them about. While it’s better to write them down, it can also be helpful to share them with your spouse or partner.
Our brain registers negative or threatening events very quickly in order to protect us. While the negative screams at us, the positive whispers. As people start this exercise it can be pretty hard to remember 3 good things and very easy to recall 100 bad things! But within four or five days of practice, you’ll begin to see more positive events during the day. The actual number of positive things hasn’t increased, but your capacity to see them will have expanded. This is the power of three good things.
While it would be wonderful to practice this attitude of gratitude all year long, research has shown that it can be very effective in just two weeks. If the Three Good Things activity is done every night for two weeks the benefits last for over nine months. These benefits include enhanced happiness, improved sleep, better work-life balance and a reduction in mild or moderate depression. (For more information, vistit this link.)
Our challenges today are different than those of the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans, but our American roots have established a pattern of being resilient in difficult times. As you gathering with loved ones, share the harvest, and have fun, be sure to exercise an increased sense of gratitude of all that is well.