Giving thanks isn’t easy, but it is worth it

If you’re reading this editorial the day this paper published, we at The Post-Record would like to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.

Hopefully, you are sharing this distinctly American holiday with your loved ones, eating a warm meal and giving thanks for the small joys in life.

In my family, Thanksgiving always meant my favorite aunt would drive back “home” (Appalachian Pennsylvania) from her super-cool bachelorette pad (in exotic New Jersey) and my Pennsylvania Dutch grandmothers would cook their tastiest recipes (give me whoopie pies over pumpkin pies any day). It was a holiday filled with celebration, feasting, laughing and — always — wrestling my little brother for the biggest piece of the wishbone so all my childhood dreams might come true. (Sadly, due to what I suspect was one too many years of getting the small piece of the wishbone, I am not an astronaut and my boyfriend is not Billy Idol.)

When I married into a half-British family and moved 3,000 miles from my own tribe, Thanksgiving became less about big gatherings and more about having a day off to walk the dogs, do laundry and maybe get a full eight hours of sleep.

This year, though, the old traditions are making a comeback: I’m cooking for nine people, including exes, new partners, childhood friends, teenagers who would probably rather be hanging out with fewer “olds” and four dogs who likely will be dreaming about dropped turkey pieces and spilled gravy until Christmas rolls around. (And, yes, I’m fighting teens and dogs alike for the big piece of wishbone. Billy Idol is still out there and the Space Force is forming, you know.)

Whether it’s a day of laundry or creating a feast for the masses, one thing that has always remained a part of my holiday tradition is the art of giving thanks aloud. One of the best parts about Thanksgiving, at least in my mind, is the chance to sit back and really reflect on what we have to be grateful for in our lives.

It can be so hard to give thanks on a regular basis — especially when we’re bombarded with stories of catastrophic wildfires in California, weekly mass shootings and daily updates on all the cruel and ill-informed things our president has to say about these tragedies — but finding gratitude has its own rewards.

In 2015, Psychology Today published an article about the scientifically proven benefits of feeling grateful. Among those benefits: stronger relationships with friends and family, improved physical and psychological health, increased levels of happiness, enhanced empathy, reduced aggression, better sleep, improved self-esteem and lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Other studies have found grateful people live longer lives, are more patient and optimistic and have better career advancement. On the flip side, people who rarely feel gratitude report more health problems, higher levels of economic anxiety, and say they often feel envious of others, “bored” and angry.

Of course, like most things that are good for us, telling people to “be more grateful” is much easier said than done. Feeling grateful takes time and practice.

When my daughter was young, we used to have a daily routine of actually telling each other what we felt grateful for on that particular day. Some days I could list 100 things. Other days, I found it tough to come up with more than one. But the act of thinking about gratitude did make me feel better.

Of all the tips I’ve ever read about “how to be a more grateful person,” one of the best suggestions was to take a “gratitude walk,” during which you simply notice small things — the changing color of the leaves, the sound of birds, the smell in the air after it rains, the crispness of the wind against your cheek, the fading sunlight on the horizon — and you give a silent thanks for each of those natural wonders as well as the unique things you love about your own life. Locally, we should all feel grateful to have such a bounty of natural spaces in which we can walk — or just sit and reflect. In just a few minutes, any Camas-Washougal resident can be on the banks of the mighty Columbia River, inside the spectacular Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, beside the tranquil Lacamas Lake or overlooking the gorgeous Washougal River.

We would love to hear what you are grateful for this year, and would be interested in the many ways you practice feeling grateful in your daily life. Please email me at kelly.moyer@camaspostrecord.com. Here’s hoping all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

~ Kelly Moyer, managing editor

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