When we think of Thanksgiving, it is doubtful that TV dinners come to mind. However, flashback to 1954 and the two share an interesting history. In this particular year, Thanksgiving food sales were diminished, leaving a company called Swanson with an excessive amount of leftover frozen turkeys. We’re not just talking a lot of turkeys, we’re talking 260 tons of extra turkeys! The Swanson brothers brainstormed and created the first Thanksgiving meal in an aluminum container with separate sections for the turkey, peas, sweet potatoes, cornbread dressing and gravy. The first TV Thanksgiving dinners were a total success, with more than 25 million meals sold for a whopping 98 cents per package. Even though our Thanksgiving meals may look a little different today, the link between Thanksgiving and TV is still there. Each year on this special day, millions of Americans will gather with family and friends around a TV watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, NFL games or maybe even an early Hallmark movie.

Whatever your traditions include, it is important to remember that Thanksgiving is a time to reconnect with the people who matter most. I think we can all agree it has been a tough couple of years for many people and for many reasons. Through these struggles, however, there are always things for which to be grateful.

Taking time to realize and reflect on these things are essential in achieving gratitude. For you, it might be reuniting with loved ones, experiencing human connection, being in good health or maybe even all the pie you plan to eat. The word “grateful” is used rather than “thankful” because of the difference between the two. According to the Oxford Dictionary, “thankful” is defined as pleased or relieved. On the other hand, “grateful” is defined as showing an appreciation of kindness. Unlike thankful, grateful is more than just a feeling; it’s an action. Gratitude encourages us to recognize and act on the positive roles people play in our lives 365 days of the year as opposed to feeling thankful one day of the year.

Simply taking the time to think and act on the positive things in your life can make a world of a difference. Believe it or not, research shows that gratitude is the single most powerful approach to increasing happiness. Why, you may ask? For starters, it costs zero dollars to have an attitude of gratitude. Positive psychology research indicates that gratitude impacts various areas of our lives, such as our emotions, our personality, our health, our social interactions and our career success. For example, if we truly express gratitude in some form each day, we will likely become less materialistic, less self-absorbed, more optimistic, increase our self-confidence and become more spiritual.

A consistent attitude of gratitude certainly takes time and does not happen overnight. One of the simplest, yet most beneficial ways to get started is by investing in a gratitude journal. Taking five minutes a day to write in your gratitude journal can increase your long-term wellbeing by 10 percent. Imagine that! Daily gratitude journals will also aid in lowering stress levels, help gain clarity on what you want to have more of in your life and what you want to remove, guide you to learn more about yourself, and act as a place to readjust your attitude while always remembering the positive people and things you have in your life.

This Thanksgiving season, I encourage you to begin your gratitude journey by spending some time and writing down three things for which you are grateful. From there, your gratitude possibilities and benefits are endless.

Even if you are staying on campus this Thanksgiving, Life University still wants to celebrate with you! On Thursday, November 25, Student Affairs will be putting on a Thanksgiving celebration event from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. in Lyceum Dining Hall. Enjoy food, fun, family and more. Make sure to RSVP so we can reserve your spot!

Oh, one final tip. No matter where you’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving this year, when you’re sitting at the table trying to think of a conversation starter, just remember the TV dinners. You just might become a table favorite!