Why Thanksgiving and “Thanks-Giving” Are Good for Your Family

Thanksgiving isn’t just about good food – it’s good for your family. For most families, the annual November celebration involves tradition (what would the big day be without a turkey, or your family’s equivalent?), ritual (sitting down for dinner counts!) and, of course, giving thanks. Experts say all three of these components can help your family be happier and healthier.

According to a review of research from Syracuse University over the past 50 years, routines and rituals – including the celebration of Thanksgiving – offer stability during times of stress and transition, and help improve physical health, mental health and the overall well-being of children ages 0–5. According to Dr. Barbara Feise, one of the review’s authors and author of Family Routines and Rituals, when parents have positive memories of family holidays they tend to interact more positively with their children.

For children, Thanksgiving’s large, festive meal with family and friends demonstrates the importance of sitting down and enjoying the company of those closest to us. Making time for dinner with family benefits development at other times of the year, as well. According to psychologist Anne K. Fishel, author of Home for Dinner and the Food for Thought blog, families who sit down for dinner together see improvements in children’s academic performance, confidence and self-esteem. Sharing family dinners is also linked to lower rates of depression, drug use and eating disorders.

Finally, “thanks-giving” has many mental and physical benefits for families. As reported in Dr. Robert Emmons’ studies at University of California, Davis, expressing gratitude daily is connected to greater optimism and feeling better about one’s life – plus less stress and physical illness. Expressing gratitude has been found to lead to better relationships in couples, better communication about difficult issues and increased resilience. According to a study in the Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publishing, expressing gratitude is strongly and consistently linked to greater happiness. Offering thanks for good things helps people feel positive emotions, enjoy experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity and build strong relationships. Starting this Thanksgiving, creating an attitude of gratitude in your family can be the beginning of many good things in years to come.

For more about cultivating gratitude, creating traditions and the value of family meals, check out these resources:

Nurturing an Attitude of Gratitude

Benefits of Family Dinners

Gratitude Is Good for the Soul and Helps the Heart, Too

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