John Phipps: How to Be Thankful Even When You Don't Feel Very Thankful

07:21AM Oct 31, 2019
Farm at Sunset
If you can’t find much thankfulness in your hearts this year, It’s probably there but buried under loss, grief, and worry. John Phipps is am happy to report, science may have an answer for you this Thanksgiving.
( Jeanne Bernick )

For those of you who have watched the show for some time, you know the drill for Thanksgiving. Tyne does a masterful job of combining touching stories and beautiful scenery in a salute on this day strongly associated with farmers. My job is to follow her lead with some thoughtful words about the meaning of this day. For nearly 15 years, I’ve given it my best shot, but this is 2019, a year that just won’t let up for many.

Maybe you’re like me and can’t find much thankfulness in your hearts. Oh, it’s probably there but buried under loss, grief, and worry. I am happy to report, science may have an answer for you. Psychological research has spawned a whole new field of therapy to help us deal with this problem: cognitive behavior therapy. Discoveries have helped millions cope with unwanted emotions. For our particular problem on this particular day, the recommendation is remarkable simple.

Not feeling thankful this holiday? Then just fake it. That’s right – act like you are thankful even though you don’t feel it inside. Smile a little, or at least don’t scowl. If you’re struggling to find positive things to say, work on being a good listener for those who want to share their blessings. Suck it up and be as pleasant and amiable as you can. This will accomplish one thing for sure – your Thanksgiving dissatisfaction won’t be nearly as contagious. But there is a good chance something surprising will occur: your feelings of thankfulness many actually emerge.

It seems we’ve been thinking the linkage between what we do and what we feel is one way – how we feel motivates how we act. Angry people act angry. But cognitive behavior demonstrates it can work in reverse. Doing the things that thankful people do can often generate genuine thankfulness. I know this is the era of authenticity, where the goal is to say what you mean regardless of the consequences to others and yourself. But a little discretion, tact, and discipline is not deception, it is a route to better outcomes for those around you and if you sincerely try, a happier, more meaningful Thanksgiving.

Since I missed the fall color here while in a grain cart, I picked this as the loveliest sight on our farm right now: a field without a crop and miraculously, without ruts. This is 2019, and that’s something I am thankful for.

John Phipps Harvest of Thanks Message 11/28/19