The United States celebrates “Thanksgiving” every year on the last Thursday of November. The day brings together families to express gratitude to God for all their blessings. Although the tradition dates back to the 1621, it is as relevant today as it was way back then.
so what exactly is gratitude?
It is defined as “the quality of being thankful, readiness to show appreciation and to return kindness.” This can be to those around you and or to a higher power.
As Muslims we are told time and again to be grateful by God Himself. In fact, gratitude is one of the most commonly occurring themes in the Quran and it is expected for us to be consistently grateful.
“Then remember Me; I will remember you. Be grateful to Me, and do not reject Me” (2:152).
why be grateful?
And if any is grateful, truly his gratitude is (a gain) for his own soul; but if any is ungrateful, truly my Lord is free of all needs, Supreme in honour!” ( 27: 40)
Through this we see that it is actually for man’s own benefit that he show gratitude.
- Gratitude is good for the soul. A study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies indicates that participants who wrote gratitude letters over a period of three weeks actually increased happiness and satisfaction and decreased any symptoms of depression.
- Gratitude is good for the body. Studies show that gratitude benefits ones physical wellbeing. A person who is grateful tends to have fewer aches and pains and is in better health than one who is ungrateful. According to Robert Emmons, a leading expert on the scientific effects of gratitude, being grateful has a host of physical benefits amongst which are: a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, better sleep patterns, the ability to exercise and be more in control of ones health.
- Gratitude increases one in many ways. ‘If you are grateful, I will add more (favours) unto you; (14:7) It is of interest to note that God does not say increase in what. That is left open for the believer to interpret. It could mean an increase in wealth, happiness, contentment etc.
- Gratitude builds resilience. The above verse was an address to The Children of Israel who were tortured and persecuted at the hands of the Pharaoh. Their sons were slaughtered by him yet God asks them to be grateful. A 2006 study of Vietnam war veterans found that those with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower levels of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
So beyond the feasts and the partying this Thanksgiving, lets look at the essence of the holiday. It will benefit us spiritually as well as physically and help us live a life centered on giving thanks the rest of the three hundred and sixty-four days of the year.