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Thanksgiving, Why Your Health and Happiness Depend On it


Five orange pumpkins sit in a row in front of a distressed, wooden background.

It’s that time of year again. The day of giving thanks is here, and with it, a reminder to reflect on the blessings in our lives.

How refreshing this holiday can be, pondering the beautiful truth it symbolizes!

Thanksgiving draws many like a magnet.

Let’s “give thanks more often,” you hear some say, while others chime in with, “why wait a year?”

Good question, why do most tend to wait for this time of year to feel the warmth and connection that comes when we give thanks?

Regardless how busy the days get, cooking and planning, or stressing about relatives getting along, deep down, something seems to start prompting us, around Thanksgiving Day, to focus more on what truly gives our lives more meaning, and to give thanks for all the bounty we have, give and receive.

Considering neuroscience findings, it appears to be indisputable: giving thanks is integral to who we are as human beings.

A practice of gratitude can immunize us from despair and bitterness, for example, and considering certain inclinations we’ve been socially conditioned to follow, that is, to overly focus on what’s lacking or wrong with us or loved ones, life and relationships, and the like — booster shots of thanksgiving can be much needed.

When we deliberately shift our focus away from lack to feeling grateful, our brains automatically start to deconstruct old toxic neural pathways, and commence to build and reinforce new ones instead.

The subconscious mind of the body, automatically, adds and grows what you use, and what you no longer use, naturally atrophies. That’s one of its directives.

Known as “pruning,” this process can take three to six weeks, depending on how regularly the new pathways are reinforced.

When we consciously choose to let go of old thoughts of lack and shift our focus to new uplifting, solution-focused ones, literally, this trains our brain and body, emotions and behaviors to follow our commands.

In fact, your body regards your chosen focus, new or old, like a command.

Like a genie, your subconscious, or body-mind, is ever pleased to serve you 24/7, and like clock work, always responding with:

“Your wish is my command.”

That means your deliberate focus … or set intention … is pure power. Why not pause, breathe, become aware of the power of your thoughts, and consciously reflect?

Take a few moments, if you wish, to really think about a bird’s eye view, the big picture of your life.

From a certain vantage point, at least relatively speaking, there is little wrong, in fact, nearly everything is right, and going well … and as planned. For example:

The sun rises each morning.

The birds sing. We awake to find we are alive.

Each moment, our lungs breathe in life in the form of oxygen.

Our senses invite us to feel life in and around us; our emotion-drives prompt us with yearnings to love and be loved unconditionally, and in the process expand our capacity for perfection.

We may not like to feel unpleasant emotions, yet they are some of the most important guides, reminding us of what we more care about, our innermost values.

Our body serves us faithfully as a source of guiding truth and wisdom, as we navigate the challenges inherent in all learning and growth.

Our yearnings prompt us to know, to learn, to keep reaching to grow, to contribute and extract value, to realize our yearning to connect meaningfully to life around in and around us, and in the process, to expand our capacity for compassion … yet to also face the reality that no one, ever, will realize their yearnings, to love and be loved unconditionally, to perfection.

Our subconscious mind is a totally dedicated, personally customized, devoted partner to us alone, ever yearning and striving to help us reach our highest health, fulfillment and well being.

Our ability to create and imagine is ever present to help us to manifest an ever brighter future.

You have a powerful ability to choose to shift away from lack … and instead to bathe your mind and heart, brain and body, with nourishing hormones, so powerful that, in an instant, they alter the structure of your brain’s neural pathways.

Your choices, in this case, the thoughts you choose to think … are pure power.

It is perhaps what Robert Frost meant by the “Secret” n his quote:

“We dance round in a ring and suppose,

But the Secret [of who we are] sits in the middle and knows.”

Why focus on lack, when you could pause and align your thoughts and will with a sense of gratitude, and allow this to fill your imagination instead, as a source of creativity and informed action? Especially given that:

If you do so for 20 seconds or more, you literally command your brain to build new neurons and synaptic connections.

And the more you choose to repeat this in your imagination, the thicker the new connection gets, and thus also, its signaling capacity for transmitting the new electrical signal grows … and flows!

Wow! A deliberate focus on what is going right makes more of what’s right happen in your life!

If this sounds too simple or easy, it isn’t. Taking a minimum of 20 seconds to give thanks is complex, yet this precise formula can activate powerful energy (emotions) in the direction of creating a happy and healthy life and relationships.

Savor your life and the gifts in and around you … choose to spend a minute or two, or ten, to stretch out the good feelings you have about your life, and optimize your life, one moment at a time, with mindful boosts of health, pausing to:

Be grateful, give thanks first thing each moment; and last thing before going to sleep at night.

Mindfully take in the colors of a rainbow, smell the scent of flowers, enjoy a loved one, appreciate your self, your yearnings to contribute.

Feel the power and love of the elements that bring you life. The sun’s warmth and strength. The wind’s energizing spread life. The power of water to nourish and direct life’s flow.

Note the little things in life that can bring moments of joy. The taste of a nutritious meal. A cup of tea or coffee. An exchange of thoughts in a converstaion. The laughter of children or pattern of rain.

Imagine the possibiitiies of a life filled with acts of kindness, and the presence of more love, more joy, more appreciate of life in and around us, not to mention an ever present power to choose to do so … ever a breath away.

Giving thanks is at the top of the list of those who want to succeed in living happy, healthy lives.

And if there is a loved one or two that you worry about, or just want to send blessings of thanks to, try the following: First, close your eyes, take a few deep long, loving breaths, and bring each to mind, one at a time. As you do, smile and give thanks for them, for every opportunity to connect with them, feeling grateful for their presence in your life, and send them loving wishes with a prayer or affirmation, such as:

You are God’ precious beloved child, [their Name]

You know it and you feel it.

With praise and thanksgiving for everything that you are,

I hold your hand in prayer, and place you safely in God’s care.

Frequently saying thanks can lead to a healthier and happier life all year long, and your relationships will benefit too.

You deserve to feel good every single day. You’re wired, with unstoppable momentum to do so. Give yourself healthy boosts of feeling good about your self and life, and keep the pull of addictive quick-fix feel goods at bay.

Get help from a professional, if needed, to learn how to lower and discipline difficult emotions, such as anger, fear, shame, guilt, etc., and transform them into assets.

Thanksgiving Day is a beautiful, perhaps often needed reminder, to shift away from thoughts focused on what’s lacking or wrong, and instead to one of the most powerful emotions there is, connecting us to our life and loved ones!

Let nothing stand in your way of breaking free of toxic habits, compulsions, addictions, one at a time.

Replace or lower the intensity of any negative emotions you possibly can and optimize your life with powerful emotions, starting with thanks giving.

Thanksgiving Day is a beautiful reminder to never let anything stop you from giving thanks!

A Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Thanksgiving, Why Your Health and Happiness Depend On it

Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Relationship consultant, author, licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Athena Staik motivates clients to break free of anxiety, emotion reactivity, and other addictive patterns, to awaken wholehearted relating to self and other. She is currently in private practice in Northern VA, and writing her book, What a Narcissist Means When He Says 'I Love You'": Breaking Free of Addictive Love in Couple Relationships. To contact Dr. Staik for information, an appointment or workshop, visit, or visit on her two Facebook fan pages DrAthenaStaik and DrStaik

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APA Reference
Staik, A. (2016). Thanksgiving, Why Your Health and Happiness Depend On it. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Nov 2016
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