What are you thankful for?
It’s a question asked frequently this time of year, especially when the name of the holiday at hand all but demands an answer.
And for many, the answers are multiple.
Family. Friends. Health. Professional stability. Those of us fortunate enough to have all, or most, of these in our lives should find gratitude in that fact, and sympathy for the many people who are without life’s necessities this time of year. That’s why donations to food banks usually spike during the holiday season, as do contributions to all different types of charities.
But talk to any director of a local food bank and they’ll be quick to remind you that, while holiday donations are always appreciated, the need for food — for giving — doesn’t dissipate when the garland gets taken down and the tinsel thrown away. People are in need 12 months out of the year, and charity is required to meet those needs.
It’s an important lesson to remember around Thanksgiving, but it can be applied in another way as well.
If you’re thankful for family, don’t just show it around the holidays. If you’re thankful for friends, don’t just connect with them for a holiday party or traditional December get-together. If you’re thankful for health and overall happiness, don’t forget that once the season is over and it’s back to the “grind.”
According to a study produced by a U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee this year, “Mortality from deaths of despair far surpasses anything seen in America since the dawn of the 20th century.” People, according to the report, are committing suicide, dying of drug overdoses, or succumbing to diseases most commonly associated with behavior seen in people struggling through depression or anxiety at frighteningly high rates. Simply put, Americans today seem almost fatally pessimistic about their lives.
There is of course no one reason why people are caught in despair. Mental health plays a huge role, and our society seems to be coming to grips with the need to address those issues in a more coherent fashion. And some people are faced with personal problems that can lead to depression and destructive behavior. Being “thankful” certainly isn’t a prescription that will cure all ailments.
Yet, we could all do with a reminder that, for many of us, life is, by all accounts, good. If you love your family, make sure to be a part of their lives 12 months out of the year, not just a few days in November and December. If you’re thankful for your career, maybe look to help someone who is in between jobs, or just offer to relieve some of the financial burdens they may face.
At times, pessimism seems to rule the day. We are bombarded with bad news, whether online or over the airways. But such news only impacts us if we let it.
This holiday season, think about what it is that brings joy to your life — the people, the causes, the activities — and make a commitment to cherish them throughout the entire year. For many, it will serve as a good bulwark against despair.