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How giving thanks fuels our drive to thrive

Thanksgiving should be a simple holiday to celebrate. It’s in the name, giving thanks. Amid the travel, grocery store scramble and clashing family politics, ideas of gratitude might easily be eclipsed. Even more so in an ongoing pandemic and when prices are so high and goods so limited that mac and cheese might replace our dinner turkey.

So, it’s worth a reminder, especially during a pandemic when you’re exhausted with nothing left to give — to dig deep…and give thanks.

Not simply to endure another holiday. But for your sake — and sanity.

Everyone has a mission in life. Finding it is tough. Mastering it is tougher. If, however, you want to master your mission, and improve your mental health, giving thanks — gratitude — is key.

Meaning in life facilitates well-being and impedes ill-being. Meaning via gratitude can help us get through — and from — the pandemic. Gratitude promotes meaning in life by facilitating mastering your mission and thriving.

First, it aids personal thriving by increasing happiness, life satisfaction, self-esteem and optimism. It also boosts our physical health. Helping us manage our mission — instead of doctor’s appointments. Gratitude, thus, makes us resilient. It buffers us against burnout and COVID-19 fatigue. Providing the energy to hit the ground running toward our mission — and not a wall.

Second, gratitude aids social thriving. It promotes relationship closeness, forgiveness and trust, as well as altruism, sympathy and the motivation to improve relationships. Being grateful, thus, helps us find and forge connection; it’s social crazy glue. Therefore, while COVID-19 may keep us apart, gratitude brings us together — providing the love needed to flourish and the support needed to master our mission.

Finally, gratitude aids spiritual thriving. It promotes more time at religious services and in prayer, as well as a closeness to God and purpose and meaning in life. Because of its transcendent nature, gratitude connects us to humanity. It connects us to the galaxy. It connects us to God. Life absent these celestial connections is scary, stressful and confusing. We then drift. We then meander. We then slam the snooze button. Lacking the energy to rise in the morning is one thing. Lacking a reason is another.

Mastering our mission requires knowing — and being grateful — that we’re a piece in the cosmic puzzle. Although corner pieces are prized, every piece matters.

Of the dimensions to thrive — personal, social and spiritual — gratitude most strongly aids mastering our mission via spiritual thriving. Why? Because you shouldn’t be reading this, and I shouldn’t be writing it. Let me explain. Physician, Dr. Ali Binazir, calculated the odds of our existence. He concluded, “It is the probability of 2 million people getting together each to play a game of dice with trillion-sided dice. They each roll the dice and they all come up with the exact same number. For example, 550,343,279,001.” And you thought getting the first COVID-19 vaccine was hard!

Life, therefore, is a gift. It’s unearned. It’s undeserved. And it should’ve remained unknown. Yet, for us, it isn’t. So, how do we explain the impossible odds of our existence? Random chance? Or God’s love? The answer determines our gratitude for life and, thus, our drive to thrive.

Think your life is accidental, and nihilism awaits. Be grateful for life — your life — and meaning awaits. So does happiness, love and mastering your mission.

Life is a loan from God. Let’s repay it with interest.

Jeffrey J. Froh, Psy.D. is a writer and professor of psychology at Hofstra University. He’s the founder and past clinical director of the Positive Psychology Institute for Emerging Adults. His is the author of the new book, “Thrive: 10 Commandments for 20-Somethings to Live the Best-Life-Possible.”

Tags Gratitude Health Holiday Jeffrey J. Froh Mental health Pandemic Positive psychology Psychology Spirituality Thanksgiving

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