Wish I was more in the mood this Thanksgiving week to share the traditional message of universal gratitude and appreciation for the abundance and freedoms we Americans have enjoyed, especially us baby boomers. After all, we came of age during the greatest period of these United States thanks largely to sacrifices by our parents and generations before them.
Wish I felt more like I did years back when I'd convinced myself the majority among us had profound gratefulness simply for being delivered into such a wondrous country. There was a comfort in believing, despite our inevitable disagreements, that we were free Americans first.
But as much as I would give anything to regain that idealistic sense of a collective "attitude of gratitude," I can't locate much appreciation for our many blessings in all I witness of the endless politically-generated conflicts whipping around today.
The public displays of smears, immature whining, self-gratification, dishonesty, and defiance against America are everywhere. This negativity even comes from many with vast material wealth gained solely through free enterprise and their freedom.
And rather than join fellow citizens in praising our common creator for all we have and the opportunities that exist (as did George Washington when proclaiming the first Thanksgiving holiday), increasing numbers castigate, ridicule, even demonize those who do. The political arena today, rooted in self-interest rather than public interest, wallows in dark and ugly selfish partisanship. Hardly the stuff of appreciation.
I see hundreds of millions elsewhere still existing under government control and dictatorship without hope, a sense of purpose or achievement, while suffering the oppression of totalitarian and Communist regimes. Thank you, God, for casting your blessings to this point on these United States.
The widespread agonies we see among hundreds of millions from war-ravaged Syria to hurricane-savaged Puerto Rico and disintegrating Venezuela should be a reminder of how privileged we are to spend our brief lives here.
Now, I'm not arguing the majority of Americans are spoiled or don't appreciate the blessings of this country. Yet the numbers of those who seem to have no appreciation even for the fundamental gift of a life spent in freedom are clearly on the rise. That saddens me for the generations to come.
Shifting gears toward the positive, science says appreciation is actually good for our well-bring. Writing for Forbes, Amy Morin explained seven benefits from having an appreciative attitude and how that enriches our lives. All are matters of choice.
Expressing appreciation can help win new friends, she wrote, according to a 2104 study published by the American Psychological Association's Emotion. The study found thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek a relationship. Acknowledging others' contributions also can create new opportunities.
Gratitude can improve health. Appreciative people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than others, Morin wrote. A 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences explains that grateful people are more likely to take care of their health, exercise more and get regular check-ups that benefit longevity.
Thankfulness improves psychological health by diminishing toxic emotions such as envy, resentment and frustration. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading "gratitude researcher," found appreciation effectively increases happiness while diminishing depression.
Appreciation enhances empathy and reduces aggression. "Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kind, according to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky," Morin wrote. "Study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge."
Grateful people sleep better. Taking 15 minutes to keep a daily gratitude journal may help you sleep better and longer, according to a 2011 study in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being.
Appreciative attitudes enhance self-esteem. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found gratitude increased athletes' self-esteem, a critical component to optimal performance. Other studies show that grateful people can appreciate others' accomplishments instead of being resentful toward those who have achieved more.
Finally, gratitude increases mental strength by reducing stress and could play a major role in overcoming trauma. A 2006 study in Behavior Research and Therapy found Vietnam veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of PTSD. A 2003 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology discovered appreciation was a primary contributor to resilient spirits following the 9/11 attacks.
On this Thanksgiving week, why not choose to drop the false hatreds, unproductive anger and self-consuming resentments in favor of counting your blessings and all we share to be thankful for in being part of our planet's last bastion of freedom? Might even consider a prayer or two.
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at email@example.com.
Editorial on 11/21/2017
Print Headline: Thanksgiving week