November, for the rest of the world, is just a month that separates Halloween from Christmas. But for Americans, November is the highlight of saying thank you.
Thanksgiving’s a longstanding tradition, that started in 1621 as an autumn harvest feast between colonists and the Wampanoag tribe, according to History Channel, a tv institution that belongs to one of the most well-known media networks in the world.
Since then, it has given millions across the country a reason to share special moments within a family meal and it’s one of the most expected national holidays of the year.
As a native of a different part of America, this important date is just another number on the calendar, but during this cultural exchange experience, it meant I would be spending the day away from beloved family and friends, but surrounded by the warmth of a foster family of new friends, those who have opened their homes to welcome me in.
As people from all states, backgrounds, and religions, have their own rituals, like saying a prayer right before their lunch or dinner, or acknowledging what makes them feel grateful, I do feel it’s necessary to take some of these wonderful get-togethers and bring some of the things for reflection, during my 4-month mark in the US.
1. A thankful mindset shouldn’t be just for November or for special occasions like birthdays or Christmas, but we must feel grateful every day for the opportunities given, for our failures, and for the strengths we’ve gained through the hard times.
As you’ve probably heard or read before, whenever we experience positive feelings like gratitude our body produces endorphins, serotonin and dopamine, all of these hormones and their chemical components make us feel at ease, and more social and can help us fight anxiety and depression, as well as other mental health conditions.
Yes, gratitude can re-adjust your brain and change your mindset, as Christina Costa explains in depth in her TED Talk.
2. Embracing the nature of these moments, learning, respecting, and if it’s possible, celebrating new cultures and their traditions as if they were your own. I do have to confess, Diwali and Hanukkah, to name some that were completely new to me, but doing some research and being able to exchange thoughts with fellows who participate in these because of their beliefs, it feels amazing to be a part of a community that recognizes and fosters the importance of each’s important moments and holidays. A great way to stay connected to home, even if you’re miles or continents away.
3. Cherish your own traditions and background and feel proud of it wherever you go. There will be some people who won’t agree with it but others will definitely love it and will find comfort in finding someone like you who shares the same values, excitement, and love for said celebration. It’s part of our human nature to feel connected and look for belonging, so you can probably find (or start, if that’s the case) a community wherever you are.
At this point, while I’m still eating leftover turkey, cranberry sauce, and mashed potato, which is part of the traditional Thanksgiving meal, I would definitely say I’m feeling grateful for the good and the bad, so far.
Thankful for the good because it has been amazing, and thankful for the bad because it wasn’t expected but it hasn’t been as bad either (no complaints here). I’m also thankful for the failure that I’ve experienced in the past, because if I hadn’t failed or at least gotten the outcome I wanted I wouldn’t have had the drive that kept me trying to be here. I would probably be in the same place doing the same things.
I wouldn’t have had to think of new goals or new projects, I wouldn’t have felt inspired to venture into something different. I wouldn’t have put myself out there for new opportunities.
So today, as the month and basically the year slips from our hands, my advice is to grow this thankful mindset, maybe as a 2023 goal but start it sooner than later. Practice gratitude in your everyday actions, with people you love and people you don’t. Be grateful to strangers (to an extent of course) and to life’s circumstances, because even if they are out of our control, sometimes they can be pleasant surprises.
Keep feeling grateful until one day it will become your everyday attitude.