Two people cheers their glasses over Thankgiving dinner. (Joanna Monger Photography)

Two people cheers their glasses over Thankgiving dinner. (Joanna Monger Photography)

The comforting and important rituals of giving thanks

I hope you took some time this Thanksgiving, between helpings of turkey and mashed potatoes, to consider what you appreciate and value in your life.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.

Sadly, one of my daughters lives far away, so we don’t get to spend many Thanksgiving holidays together. Instead, we celebrate it with our daughter and her family close by. Every year, we go around the table and each child and adult share what they feel thankful for this last year. The kids expect this ritual and come prepared to reveal what they appreciate about their lives. I love to hear why each person is grateful and love to think about what I’m thankful for.

It’s easy to focus on the negatives, especially what’s in short supply. We want more time with loved ones, less work at work, more leisure time, more money — the list goes on. It’s also tempting to compare and contrast our lives with others. This kind of reflection often leaves us feeling inadequate.

It’s also a challenging time in our world — strife in the Mideast, war in Ukraine, climate change, and polarization seemingly everywhere. It’s not a happy time on our planet.

It’s especially a difficult time for adults who are alone and lonely. If you know someone in that situation, invite them to your table. Let’s share our fellowship.

Similar to many aspects of modern life, holidays can also become “too much.” Too much food, too much football, too much dessert, too much preparation, too much money, too much to drink. The next day is also “too much.” Too much shopping, too much money spent, and too much running around.

Young children learn what this holiday is about in school, even if we forget. It’s a remembrance of our country’s celebration of life in this new world. The founders struggled for survival in a harsh landscape and found time to give thanks for all of their blessings. After all, they were alive.

Thanksgiving is also a ritual. It’s on the same day every year, we eat the same foods, often the same family attends, and the after-meal activities are frequently repeated year after year. With all the change we experience every day, it’s reassuring and comforting to have something familiar and predictable. It brings us back to what’s important. It brings us back to family.

It can also be a challenging time for stressed individuals and families. Illness, death, job loss, financial problems or family issues don’t take a vacation during our holidays.

Regardless of your circumstances, it’s a good time to reflect on the positives in your life — especially those aspects of family life you appreciate. I hope you some time this Thanksgiving, between helpings of turkey and mashed potatoes, to consider what you appreciate and value in your life. The real dessert of Thanksgiving is not pumpkin pie. It’s sharing your gratitude with the people you love.

Paul Schoenfeld is a clinical psychologist at The Everett Clinic. His Family Talk blog can be found at www. everettclinic.com/ healthwellness-library.html.

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