Opinion

COLUMNIST: Give thanks, feel better

As people across the country prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, a Doris Day quote comes to mind: "Gratitude is riches and complaint is poverty."

She was right, and this week, each of us should take a moment to consider the unique history of this quintessential American holiday, what science says about gratitude, and how celebrating Thanksgiving can improve your life.

Thanksgiving has its roots before the Revolutionary War, but it wasn't until George Washington's 1789 proclamation that the holiday officially became a national celebration. As with so many things, Washington set our new republic on a solid course by encouraging Americans to unite in setting Nov. 26 aside to render "sincere and humble thanks" to God "for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country."

Most subsequent presidents dropped the ball on Thanksgiving, especially Thomas Jefferson, who thought it was a violation of the separation of church and state. The holiday was largely forgotten until Abraham Lincoln revived the tradition in 1862, setting it as the fourth Thursday in November from that time forward.

Researchers at the John Templeton Foundation have uncovered that "in general, more grateful people are happier, more satisfied with their lives, less materialistic, and less likely to suffer from burnout." Other studies show that more grateful heart patients report better sleep, less fatigue and less inflammation.

Grateful people are not only happier and healthier themselves, they also positively influence others through higher levels of generosity, kindness and helpfulness. Giving thanks improves relationships and can make our homes, our workplaces, and even our country better places to live.

Giving thanks is easier said than done, however, especially in a world where "anger has come to characterize our polarized political environment," as scholar Patrick Garry has noted. But despite all that there is to be angry about--from crime and inflation to war and wokeness--conservatives especially can't give up on Thanksgiving.

How can you best use your Thanksgiving holiday? You might consider avoiding politics altogether. Politics, which increasingly resembles a contact sport, rarely brings families together and it is--hopefully--not the most important thing in your life.


Derrick Morgan is the executive vice president of The Heritage Foundation.