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  • Marilyn Young

Thanksgiving and Gratitude

As we move into our Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, I would like to share with you some thoughts on being thankful and expressing gratitude. Like some of you I’m sure, I often use “thank you” and “I’m grateful” interchangeably. Today, however, as we head into a holiday that highlights giving thanks, Spirit prompted me to take a closer look at what each of those phrases convey and what they bring into our lives.

First, I found it interesting to recall a little bit of history regarding this weekend’s celebration. The Indigenous peoples celebrated the fall harvest long before the arrival of Europeans. With that arrival, there were several different dates of Thanksgiving to mark many different things throughout Canada’s history and although the theme changed in early years, generally thanks was given for an abundant harvest or to celebrate a special anniversary:

  • When the early explorer Martin Frobisher’s fleet, in their search for the northwest passage, survived ice and freak storms to meet in Frobisher Bay in 1579, they had a celebration to thank God for their deliverance from the trials and tribulations they had endured.

  • French settlers arriving with the explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1604 had feasts of

thanks which they shared with the Indigenous peoples.

  • Several days of Thanksgiving were held to celebrate the end of war - the Seven Years War (1763), the War of 1812, and the Lower Canada Rebellion (1832)

  • The first Thanksgiving holiday after Confederation was in April 1872 as a celebration for the recovery of the Prince of Wales in 1872 (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness. The day of Thanksgiving was moved to the fall in 1879.

  • After WWI, a day of Thanksgiving was combined with Armistice Day in the fall but 10 years later in 1931 Remembrance Day and Thanksgiving day became two separate holidays.

  • In 1957 the Canadian Parliament set Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday to be celebrated on the second Monday in October. Parliament officially declared Thanksgiving as “a day of general thanksgiving to almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.” It is an official statutory holiday in all provinces and territories except Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. (Source The Canadian Encyclopedia)

As I review our country’s history around giving thanks, I am struck by the similarities to themes in our world today – coming to safety against the adversities of weather (or climate, hurricanes), recovery from disease (or pandemic), end of a war, securing a “bountiful harvest (or food security). Is there something in our lives around these themes we can be thankful for, or more importantly grateful for? Let’s come back to this once we look at the meaning currently associated with both words.

What is the difference between being thankful and being grateful? Both words - grateful and thankful - have positive feelings attached to them – “the warm fuzzies,” love, peacefulness, contentment, relief, etc. They are very similar but many practitioners in the psychology and spiritual circles today refer to the distinction between the two made by the Swiss writer and philosopher, Henri Frederic Amiel. He wrote:

“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude.

Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness.

Thankfulness may consist merely of words.

Gratitude is shown in acts.”

Today, many arenas of psychology refer to being thankful as more of an automatic polite response or a verbal recognition that someone has been helpful or kind. For example, saying “thanks” when someone holds a door open for you or when you receive a birthday gift. A person can also feel pleased or relieved that something untoward did not occur. Being thankful is most often a short lived or brief expression. Gratitude, on the other hand, is described as a deeper emotion or appreciation for something received or for a positive outcome. It may be accompanied by words of thanks but usually involves some type of action or sign of appreciation. For example, tears of heartfelt gratitude, a look heavenward in appreciation for prayers answered, and huge hugs for a loved one who has recovered from a severe illness.

Research today supports the many physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of practicing gratitude. Practicing gratitude has been associated with better physical health (example: lower blood pressure), improved sleep, less fatigue, improved immune response, and lower levels of cellular inflammation. (Source Positive Psychology) We also know that gratitude positively impacts mental health where people experience reduced stress/ less burnout, greater resiliency and self esteem, more happiness/positive mood, more satisfaction with life, and are less materialistic. (Source Positive Psychology) Its impact on groups includes enhanced empathy and reduced aggression, stronger and more positive relationships, and employee effectiveness and job satisfaction. (Source Positive Psychology)

Spiritually, gratitude helps us learn the life lessons of patience and humility and develops our wisdom. Dr Wayne Dyer talks about gratitude removing the influence of our ego that can have us feel we are better than others, replacing it with humility which helps us and others connect with Spirit. He gives the example of many successful people who, often when accepting awards or accolades, the first thing they do is express gratitude to God/the Universe/Source – a force much bigger than them that allows them to do the things they love and succeed at. He observes that that attitude is inspirational to others. The more gratitude there is in the world, the more positivity there is.

Gratitude also goes hand in hand with generosity. As we are more grateful for what we have in our lives, the more we want to share it with others, be it material things like money or sharing a meal or the immaterial such as love, enthusiasm, joy or simply sharing our “zest for life.” We are happy to be giving and loving with kindness. As we practice gratitude, we also develop a growing sense of peace and more clarity regarding what really matters in life. We can experience positive shifts in our life. We develop an increased sense of optimism and start to expect more of the good things we are grateful for. Remember, what we focus on and attach emotion to, we can manifest (see last newsletter “What Does Your Tomorrow Look Like?”). What better emotion than heartfelt gratitude?

So, what do you think? Can you identify times when you feel thankful? When do you express

gratitude? Do you have a daily gratitude practice? If you have one, how does it impact your day? I know when talking to others who might be having a difficult time in their life, when they take the time daily to name 3, 5, or 10 things they are grateful for that day – maybe the beautiful sunset, the smile from the grocery store clerk, the food on the table, a call from a friend, a pain that is lessened, etc. – their days start to become more positive. We have freedom of choice. We can choose to “count our blessings or count our burdens.” Which would you rather attach feeling to? Which would you have more of? In the end, though, don’t worry about what you label what you are experiencing. It doesn’t really matter what we call what we are feeling – thankfulness or gratitude. What is important is what we feel. It is the feeling of deep heartfelt appreciation expressed in action that we benefit from.

Now, getting back to my mention of the historical themes reappearing today. (Life is cyclical, isn’t it?) If we only focus on the chaos and the hard, hard things the people of the world have been going through the last few years, all of which is constantly put before us by the media, you might be thinking I have lost my mind to think we have anything to be grateful for these days! Believe me, I have been down many rabbit holes, these last few years, felt overwhelmed by anger at the state of the world and those who I felt were responsible for it, fearful for what kind of world my grandbabies would be growing up in, and hopeless and powerless to have any impact on the current darkness and bleak future. But today, I am deeply grateful for that experience and the time to reflect, to connect with Spirit, and allow myself to be supported by loving family, friends, and wise resources. I saw that I couldn’t stay in that dark place not only for myself but I was impacting the people around me that I love so much. When I was angry, negative, or fearful, so were they and we clung to each other in a downward spiral.

Over that period of time, I would often hear from Spirit “Shine your light, be the light.” But first

I had to find the light! I started to look at all the good things in my life and expressed gratitude for them, profound gratitude. With all my heart I feel that I am so blessed in my life to have not experienced the losses that so many have gone through – loss of a loved on, loss of relationships, loss of good health, loss of income, loss of a home, loss of a country. Daily I express gratitude to Spirit for the people in my life I am close to who I love and for the love they give to me. I am grateful for the health and safety of those I know and love. I thank Spirit for the return to health and safety for those I know who are suffering. I am grateful for those who have escaped harm from war, hurricanes, food shortages. I am grateful for those who help those in need around the world. I am grateful that there is love and support for those who have suffered loss. For those we have lost, I am grateful for their sacrifice so that we may learn from their experience. I believe that no loss is in vain and I am comforted by the fact that those who have passed, have transitioned to a wonderful place. As Elisabeth Kubler Ross, a leader in the field of studying death and dying, has said,“There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All events are blessings given to us to learn from.”

I am even grateful for the darkness because without darkness we would not recognize the light. Through the darkness the resiliency and strength of humanity has risen and shone. There are so many examples of individuals, families and communities supporting each other. Being grateful has helped me build my strength. I have replaced my anger with love and respect for my fellow human on their unique journey even if it seems wrong or foreign to me. I don’t know what their entire story is or what their soul’s purpose is and I can’t make assumptions. I have replaced my fear with hope and hold onto a vision of the beautiful world I want to live in with my loved ones. I have taken back my power through my actions of gratitude and shining my light. I must admit, there are still moments when I slip into anger or fear but they are much fewer and I feel a constant hope and belief now that we face a bright future. What makes it easier to see and feel positivity and gratitude for me is to turn off the media or watch it selectively. I am able to see the beauty around me in nature and the people. I am reminded that when we stop and really look, there is so much to be grateful for. Following Wayne Dyer’s lead, we can all inspire others with our gratitude. The more grateful and loving I can be, the more it will influence others’ lives in a positive way. Can you imagine what a beautiful place the world would be if everyone practiced heartfelt gratitude every day? Anthony Robbins has said, “When you are grateful, fear disappears, and abundance appears.” Can you imagine a world without fear and an abundance of all we are grateful for?

As we head into the weekend celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday hopefully it will have us spending time with loved ones, sharing a delicious meal and most importantly, reminding us to pause and reflect on what we are thankful for in our lives. It can also be an opportunity to begin a gratitude practice. Will you develop an attitude for gratitude in your daily life? As

Neale Donald Walsh, author of the series, Conversations With God, says “The struggle ends when gratitude begins.” As we all focus on gratitude it will become contagious, there will be a ripple effect. Everyone’s light will shine brighter and we will see more of the beauty in life and in the future. So, thank you for shining your light! I am so grateful for you being in my life and extremely grateful for the beautiful and hopeful future we will build together.

Lots of love and hugs,



If you would like to learn more about developing a gratitude practice here are a few resources I have found helpful:


Dr. Wayne Dyer – Happiness is the Way

Neale Donald Walsh – Conversations with God series

Louise Hay

Websites: Dr. Wayne Dyer Humanity’s Team Worldwide Intuitive Counselling and Angel Card Readings

If you have the need for some insightful assistance on how to start a gratitude practice or overcome blocks to feeling grateful, I am offering intuitive counselling and angel card readings online or in person (in Calgary).

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