All of us at dynami hope you’re preparing for a long holiday weekend full of friends, family, food and much rest. We’d like to share with you a few Thanksgiving insights that go beyond the Pilgrims, the Mayflower, turkey and tryptophan …
The Benefits of Being Grateful
Let’s start with the foundational premise of all Thanksgiving celebrations: Gratitude. Beyond festive gatherings and a welcome four-day break that kicks off America’s holiday season, giving thanks is the gift that keeps on giving.
There are innumerable research studies that prove the beneficial effects of being grateful, not just on Thanksgiving Day but on the other 364 days of the year. They include:
– Improved Mental Health: Gratitude is linked to lower levels of depression and anxiety, as well as a more positive outlook on life and an increased sense of well-being.
– Enhanced Relationships: Expressing appreciation and thankfulness fosters improved bonds with friends, family, and colleagues.
– Increased Resilience: Grateful individuals tend to be more resilient in the face of adversity and challenges; better equipped to cope with stress and finding the positives within difficult situations.
– Better Sleep: Regularly practicing gratitude can improve sleep quality.
– Self-Esteem: Gratitude is associated with higher levels of self-esteem and self-worth. Acknowledging one’s own strengths and accomplishments contributes to a positive self-image.
– Physical Health Benefits: Gratitude also has positive effects on physical health, including lower blood pressure and improved immune function.
– Increased Happiness: Gratitude is strongly linked to feelings of happiness and life satisfaction. Focusing on positive aspects of life and appreciating what you have contributes to a more joyful and fulfilling life.
– Altered Brain Activity: Practicing gratitude actually changes the chemistry of the brain in areas associated with emotional processing and social cognition, leading to improved mental well-being.
– Encourages Prosocial Behavior: Grateful individuals are more likely to engage in prosocial behavior, such as helping others, fostering a sense of community, and social connections.
– Stress Reduction: Gratitude has been shown to help protect against stress, allowing one to better cope with stressors and experience less negative impact on mental well-being.
Incorporating gratitude into daily life can be as simple as keeping a gratitude journal, expressing thanks to others, reflecting on positive experiences, or doing something truly kind for others … and yourself.
Thanksgiving Traditions Around the World
While Thanksgiving traditions vary greatly around the world, all are predicated on giving thanks for a bountiful harvest, acknowledging blessings from Above, or to honor cultural and historical events. Here are a few:
– Loy Krathong [Thailand] – In The festival of Loy Krathong, people float small, decorated rafts, or krathongs, on rivers to symbolize a “letting go” of negativity and giving thanks to the Water Goddess.
– Chuseok [South Korea] – Chuseok is major harvest festival in which families gather to pay respects to ancestors, share a special meal [including a dish called Songpyeon, a type of rice cake], and engage in traditional activities like folk games and dance.
– Erntedankfest [Germany] – Meaning “harvest thanksgiving festival,” Erntedankfest is similar to American and Canadian Thanksgiving but has more religious overtones. People attend church services, decorate sanctuaries with fruits and vegetables, pray and participate in post-services parades.
– Mid-Autumn Festival [China and Vietnam] – Mid-Autumn Festival is a time for family reunions, feasting, and giving thanks. It also includes a variety of Mooncakes [a traditional pastry] that is shared among friends, families and neighbors during the multi-day festival.
– Harvest Festival [U.K.] – Communities come together to celebrate the harvest season with churches holding special services in which people express gratitude for their bounty and offer produce and non-perishable goods to be donated to those in need.
– Pongal [India and Sri Lanka] – A four-day harvest festival celebrated in the Tamil region in south India and Sri Lanka, the festival involves cooking a special dish called Pongal, made from newly harvested rice, milk, and jaggery [a coarse brown sugar made in India]. It is a time to give thanks to the Sun God for an abundant harvest.
While these traditions may not be exact equivalents to the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., they share common themes of gratitude, harvest celebrations, and coming together with family and community.
Traditions: In with the Old and In with the NEW!
There’s no rule that says new traditions can’t be created each year when Thanksgiving rolls around. And there’s no generation quite like the Millennials and the early Gen-Zers – two groups that have delayed getting married, are building careers, traveling and often find family among their friends — who have started a variety of new traditions. Here are a few:
Friendsgiving — Friends gather to celebrate Thanksgiving with fellow young adults, students, or those who may be away from their families during the holiday.
Gratitude Scavenger Hunt — Instead of simply going around the table after dinner and sharing what you’re thankful for, scavenger hunts are created that include a list of items, experiences or acts of kindness related to gratitude. Each person is encouraged to accomplish as many tasks on the list as possible throughout the remainder of the day and the following week. The intent is to kickstart a trend towards “being in the moment”, appreciating what you have, and seeking opportunities to extend kindness to another. A follow-up gathering is held 1-2 weeks later during which everyone shares their experiences.
Tasty and A Tale — Guests prepare a beloved family dish and share at dinner why this particular dish is so meaningful to their loved ones. They also distribute copies of the family recipe in hopes something they cherish becomes something cherished by others.
Toast-Around – Each invited guest is asked to come prepared to make a personal toast that includes something in particular about this circle of friends for which they are deeply thankful … but be careful, a large gathering may involve many toasts so moderation is always a wise decision!
Turkey Trot – Each year, participation in community “Turkey Trots” includes more and more Millennials and Gen-Zers. And more and more, they like to dress in costumes and “trot” at a leisurely pace that allows them to converse, sing and joke as they make their way along the course. The event then leads to a gathering of friends for a Thanksgiving feast.
Speaking of Turkey Trots …
In the spirit of true confessions, I’ll share two personal items. For 20+ years, on Thanksgiving morning, I rise early and run in the Thanksgiving Half-Marathon. [And I will tell you, it’s no trot!]
It’s a great way to burn off a lot of energy and calories in advance of this hungry Irishman sitting down and eating a bit of everything on the table … plus seconds! It also gets me out of the way of the cook in the kitchen. Oh, wait …
My dirty little Thanksgiving secret is that nobody really prepares a turkey in our home. We leave the “heavy lifting” to Popeyes — yep, that Popeyes! It used to be a well-kept secret but now the chain of chicken joints is publicizing its Popeyes Deep-Fried Cajun-Style Turkey which I will tell you is nothing short of absolutely delicious!
Having said that, we do prepare all of our sides for Thanksgiving Dinner. I mean, who whips up a better bowl of mashed potatoes than an Irishman, right?
CURE Believe Ball
This isn’t directly tied to Thanksgiving but it does occur in November so I consider it a great way to lead into the next two months of celebrating. Founded in 1975 by an Emory University pediatric oncologist, CURE Childhood Cancer’s annual Believe Ball is, in my mind, one of Atlanta’s premier philanthropic events.
CURE has raised more than $43 million in the past 12 years that has gone directly to funding research to reduce and ultimately eliminate childhood cancers of all kinds, and to support families of pediatric cancer patients.
I am deeply thankful and proud that one of dynami’s cherished clients, Novelis, Inc., is a Co-Presenting Sponsor of the event and dynami has been a proud Gold Sponsor for nearly a decade. I share this with you not to pat ourselves on the back but to let you know how much we believe in the organization’s mission. We believe if we can be even a tiny part of helping to cure childhood cancer, well, for that we would be eternally grateful.
[Click to learn more: https://www.believeball.org/]
Finally, all of us at dynami wish our friends and families, our clients and neighbors, a very happy Thanksgiving. May you embrace gratitude and enjoy great health and prosperity every day!