Giving Thanks

By Christie Wilcox | November 27, 2014 6:28 pm


Today is Thanksgiving. While as a holiday it is unique to the US and a few others, in many ways, Thanksgiving is universal. Basically every culture throughout history has had a celebratory feast before the dark of winter sets in. Harkening back to ancient harvest celebrations, Thanksgiving is about expressing thanks for all the good things in our lives. Though it has nearly been commercialized to death with Black Friday sales and overdone parades, underneath all that fluff is a holiday geared towards gratitude, a time to reflect upon one’s life and all of the little things there are to be thankful for.

For me, Thanksgiving has always been a time to be with family. It’s always been one of those holidays when the whole motley crew gets together—which in my family usually meant dozens of people sharing turkey and stuffing while trying to keep warm as the cold Massachusetts winter set in. I have fond memories of my childhood Thanksgivings with all of my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins. As the years have passed, those traditions have changed. When I lived in Florida, I would drive several hours to visit my grandparents, who in their older age, now spend Thanksgiving in warmer climates. Since moving to Hawaii, I have spent my Thanksgivings with friends who have become like family to me. But this year, I’m several thousand miles away from everyone I love, on an assignment in Australia. There will be no turkey, no stuffing, no cranberry sauce. But one tradition won’t be forgotten: it’s Thanksgiving, and I’m going to give my thanks.

Given the science, everyone should give thanks more often. Studies have found that there are all kinds of benefits to giving thanks. The more thankful we are, the more we feel valued by others, and the more helpful and kind we become. Expressing thanks enhances enthusiasm and determination and boosts positive thinking. Thankfulness helps bring couples together and keep them that way. Study after study has shown that gratitude is strongly and causally linked to well-being, and that the expression of it has positive effects that radiate outwards. Being thankful and expressing that gratitude has no downsides, no risks, no clinical side effects, yet most of us don’t give thanks nearly as often as we could. Thanksgiving is the one day a year set aside for doing so explicitly, and I intend to take full advantage of it. While this will certainly not be an exhaustive list, here is what I’m thankful for, in no particular order:

I am thankful for my friends and family (I know, everyone is). The people in my life are beautiful from the inside out, and I am better for knowing them.

I am thankful for the roof over my head, the shoes on my feet, and that neither of those is currently in jeopardy.

I am thankful for all the opportunities that I have been afforded, whether I have earned them or not. I love my job and what I do, and I would not be able to post this if it weren’t for all of those little moments when someone gave me a chance.

I am thankful for the millions of little things that give me joy on a daily basis, like the smell of pikake flowers, truly awful puns, banana flavoring (real and artificial), and cross-eyed, overweight, stubby-tailed cats.

I am thankful for the man I love, whose mere presence causes my brain to release such wonderfully addictive bursts of dopamine and oxytocin, and who I know will grin uncontrollably when he reads that description because he’s the most wonderfully scientific nerd I’ve ever met.

I am thankful for the beauty in this world, from the ineffable intricacy of living things to the grandeur of the lands that sustain them. This Earth and the life on it never cease to amaze me.


I’ll leave it at that. Happy Thanksgiving, readers. What are you thankful for?

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About Christie Wilcox

Dr. Christie Wilcox is a science writer based in the greater Seattle area. Her bylines include National Geographic, Popular Science, and Quanta. Her debut book, Venomous, released August 2016 (Scientific American/FSG Books). To learn more about her life and work, check out her webpage or follow her on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook.


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