Thanksgiving: The importance of gratitude

Mallory Pace, Government Reporter

It’s the last Thursday of November; friends and relatives are gathered around the dining table passing rolls and cranberry sauce while hints of Christmas slowly fill the air—Thanksgiving. But before people begin eating, some variation of the same question is asked and soon it’ll be your turn to answer, what are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?

Answers vary—some vague, some genuine and some end in tears after a few too many spiked apple ciders. Nevertheless, it’s a question that ought to be answered with careful thought and perhaps deep reflection. What am I thankful for?

It could be a variety of things, people, or experiences. You might be thankful for being alive, a precious gift often overlooked in the face of redundancy. You may say thanks for the new iPhone you recently got or the exciting experiences you’ve had this year.

FILE – A grill-roasted brined turkey is presented on a table in Concord, N.H. Turkey is the center of most Thanksgiving meals. (AP Photo/Larry Crowe, File)

Odds are if you sit with the question for just a minute longer, you might realize there is so much more to be grateful for than what’s in front of your face.  

Samira Yssa, a sophomore biomedical science student at the University of North Florida, said she is grateful for the ability to smile and to make others smile as well in response to a Spinnaker Instagram poll. 

Matt Ohlson is the director of UNF’s Taylor Leadership Institute and an associate professor of Leadership. He responded to the Instagram poll with what he’s thankful for this year.

“Getting the opportunity to teach at UNF. #LoveMyJob,” Ohlson wrote.

 It’s a question that only gets brought up once a year, yet it’s applicable and important year-round to remind yourself of everything you’re grateful for. Practice saying thanks even when you’re not being explicitly prompted with the question. 

Gratitude is defined as the readiness to show appreciation and to return kindness. It’s a quality that, with practice, has serious benefits. The more you recognize all the little things in life that deserve appreciation, your outlook can change. 

By practicing gratitude, everything you once wrote off as mundane or tedious now becomes something you suddenly appreciate… a lot.  

Take the simple act of waking up in a warm bed for example. On one hand, you may feel dread about having to get out of it and start your day of classes and homework. But by waking up and focusing on what you’re thankful for, that dread can turn into excitement when you recognize how lucky you are to have a warm bed to come home to.

(Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash)

Even things you might think you hate like doing homework or that essay deadline that’s coming up—when you practice gratitude daily, you now see those as an opportunity that many do not have.  

Amelia Porter, a first-year communications major at UNF, responded to the Instagram poll with her expression of gratitude.

“I am incredibly grateful for all of the new opportunities I received and pursued this year,” Porter wrote. 

There’s beauty to be found almost anywhere you look, and you don’t even need to look that hard to see it. Having gratitude can alter the way you look at the world around you and help you notice all the small, wonderful things to appreciate. 

So, before it’s your turn to answer the question at the Thanksgiving table, think about what you’re truly grateful for. Then tomorrow morning, ask yourself the same question. Then the next day, and the day after that. Give thanks every day, not just Thanksgiving.


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