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Thanksgiving: A Time for Gratitude, Savoring and Wine

“Contemplating our food for a few seconds before eating, and eating in mindfulness,

can bring us much happiness.”  — Thich Nhat Hanh

Thanksgiving is a time for coming together and expressing gratitude for what we have. It is rooted in the tradition of celebrating harvest and giving thanks for the bounty of the year. This practice is common among among religions and cultures across the world. Experiencing gratitude encourages us not only to appreciate our blessings or gifts, but to extend this goodness to others.

In North America, the modern tradition of Thanksgiving  dates back to the early Puritan and Pilgrim colonists. They brought the tradition from England where harvest celebrations were common and became especially important during Protestant Reformation of the 1500s.

The modern Canadian Thanksgiving holiday traces its roots back to the French settlers who brought their traditions of celebrating harvest from the European continent. Their feasts typically began at the end of the harvest season and continued throughout winter. They were also known to share food with the native peoples of the area.

Colonial New England and Canada were harsh environments where survival through winter in those early days was not guaranteed. Gratitude was a key element to survival and success.

The wisdom of gratitude has long been known, but now its value to spiritual and physical health and well being is backed by science.  Researchers in the practice of gratitude describe it as a key personality strength and research shows that practicing gratitude can have many positive physical, psychological, and social benefits.

Gratitude, Savoring and Wine 

Mindfulness teacher Heidi Hill of defines gratitude as “the quality of appreciating good things that happen, and experiencing the positive feeling of gratefulness that results.”

She writes that gratitude “will not only increase happiness, but also allow us to lead a more meaningful life and increase our ability to achieve the life we want…The idea of gratitude is not that we should feel positive all of the time, but that by being grateful we will have a greater sense of happiness in our life and have more resilience to cope with difficulties that may arise.”

To support students interested in starting a gratitude practice or deepening their existing one, Heidi has developed a simple, seven day mindfulness course on gratitude called the 7 Days of Gratitude Kickstarter Course: Create a Lasting Gratitude Practice.

In this course, she outlines key components to cultivating gratitude and focuses on one each day, offering mindfulness tools to support the practice.  Savoring is identified as one of these activities with supporting research:

The book Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience by F. Bryant recommends a practice of savoring the pleasant things around you.
In our daily lives, we don’t always notice or acknowledge the pleasant and positive things around us. We may be in a rush, distracted by other thoughts, or busy checking our phones. As a result, we miss opportunities for positive experiences and positive emotions—the building blocks of long-term happiness.
Research suggests that we can maximize the benefits of the good things around us by consciously savoring them rather than letting them pass us by or taking them for granted.
-Heidi Hill, “7 Days of Gratitude Kickstarter Course: Create a Lasting Gratitude Practice” 

Wine tasting teaches us to slow down and savor, which has benefits of deepening our gratitude. As I discussed in my earlier post, wine tasting teaches us to exercise sensory discrimination and control. 

Slowing down, paying attention, and approaching a glass of wine with awareness and the intention of study is an act of mindfulness. Wine tasting provides us with an opportunity to practice savoring in a way that can assist us in developing a deeper appreciation for what we have and make positive changes in how we respond to sensory experiences elsewhere in life.

When you sit down to your Thanksgiving feast today, draw you awareness  to savoring as a practice of gratitude. Use the wine tasting guidelines offered in my last post to help you slow down and appreciate the subtleties of the wine.

Apply those same practices to each bite of food. Notice the aromas, flavors, texture and sensation of the wine and the food. Become a witness to your sensation and observe the positive experiences that may arise. Savor the moment.

“Contemplating our food for a few seconds before eating, and eating in mindfulness,

can bring us much happiness.”  — Thich Nhat Hanh

Some Gratitude Stats:

Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, and his team have studied more than one thousand people, from ages 8 to 80, and found that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits including:

Physical: Stronger immune systems Less bothered by aches and pains Lower blood pressure Exercise more and take better care of their health Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking


Higher levels of positive emotions A more positive outlook on life in general More alert, alive, and awake More joy and pleasure More optimism and happiness Greater progress against personal goals Social More helpful, generous, and compassionate More forgiving More outgoing Feel less lonely and isolated

-Heidi Hill, “Create a Lasting Gratitude Practice” 

By Chiara Shannon

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