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What Am I Thankful For? Don't Make Me Say It

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I love Thanksgiving and its traditions -- the homemade centerpieces, the bad football, the interminable televised parades -- but there's one I'd rather skip.

It's an almost-inescapable tradition, one that usually rears its head just as you're sitting down to eat. Everyone's starving because the turkey took forever to cook, and plates loaded with cranberries and pumpkin pie waft delicious smells your way.

As you reach to grab your fork, Aunt Gladys speaks up.

"Wait," she says, holding up her hand. "First let's all go around the table and say what we're thankful for."

As an adult, I push aside my annoyance and summon up an answer: family, health, friends. It never feels particularly genuine, but the job's done. When I was a child, though, that kind of gratitude-on-demand infuriated me, made me want to do what my toddler did last year and snap back:

Nothing. I'm thankful for nothing.

 

Lest you think I'm simply a curmudgeon, let me reassure you: I know the importance of gratitude.

I personally have felt its power. When I was pregnant with my older son, I was confined to bed for months. I was isolated, scared and stressed. Making gratitude lists prevented me from living too far in the future, kept me grounded in the present.

I used to ask myself: What am I grateful for today? Sometimes it was just a new episode of "The Great British Baking Show" or a nice bowl of tomato soup delivered by my mother-in-law. But whatever it was, however small, thinking about it helped.

And gratitude doesn't just work for me: Study after study has shown that having gratitude can improve your mental and physical health, your outlook on life and even your performance at certain tasks.

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