Usually that’s our way of saying we hope everything goes well as someone celebrates this holiday. We hope our family and friends are able to navigate the holiday with minimal unpleasantness: no burnt turkeys, drunk uncles, fights over dinner, or traffic. It’s our way of saying we hope you have fun, get to relax, and maybe even get a nap at some point over the weekend. There’s nothing wrong with any of that but it misses the deeper reality of that greeting – being thankful actually makes us happy!
By the way, that’s not sentimentality. It’s science. Study after study has confirmed that being thankful makes us happier. When we take time to reflect on the things that make us grateful and express that gratitude, it actually changes us on a neurobiological level. Being thankful causes our brains to release both dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine is the chemical that makes us happy, optimistic, sociable, and goal-oriented. Serotonin is an anti-depressant that increases will power and motivation. So, if we do this thanksgiving thing correctly, it should literally make us happier!
The Apostle Paul didn’t understand the neurobiology of gratitude but he knew the experiential reality of it.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
That’s my prayer for you this Thanksgiving. May the peace of God guard your heart as you allow gratitude to mingle with your need in a way that drives away anxiety. May the joy of Christ be yours as you meditate on the goodness, mercy, and provision of God in your life. May you be more focused on the blessings you celebrate than the details of your celebration.
So, Happy Thanksgiving. Or maybe I should say, “Thanksgiving Will Make You Happy.”