A few years ago, I went down a "gratitude" rabbit hole...
I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, ad-free, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”
A few years ago, I went down a "gratitude" rabbit hole.
I spend a lot of time on the internet, and at some point I came across a story about the health benefits of gratitude — what it does to your brain, your state of mind, and even how you view your life. The evidence was, in a word, shocking.
Now, don't get me wrong: The social media influencers hawking gratitude books and self-help classes sometimes irk me. So do friends or family pressuring you to simply be grateful when you're having a bad day or going through a tough time. Even more, I know the holiday season can be particularly tough for some, for all sorts of reasons: Lost loved ones, loneliness, depression, social anxiety, even all of the above. But I also don’t think that should take away from the magic that practicing gratitude can actually create.
Harvard Health review summed it up this way:
"Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, being grateful also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power. In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships."
In one study, people who wrote consistently about gratitude in a diary weren't just happier with their lives and more optimistic, but they also ended up exercising more and making fewer visits to physicians. Other studies have shown associations with better sleep and increased generosity.
Of course, associations can't necessarily prove cause and effect. I used to scoff at this stuff, and I can still find the whole "show gratitude" or "give thanks" platitudes a bit performative and annoying, but then... I tried it. And I found that it worked pretty much as well as many of the studies said it did.
So, as we head into Thanksgiving, today is a good excuse to show some gratitude. And I just wanted to say how grateful I am for this community, for the folks who are trying a new kind of news, for the fact I'm getting to spend this Thanksgiving with family and friends (in person!), and even for the tumultuous country we live in. I write so much about how broken our Congress is, how divided we are as a people, and the last couple of weeks have included a few particularly upsetting and frustrating subjects.
But I'm grateful I can write about all of it. I'm grateful I live in a country where I can say "Congress sucks" and not worry I'll be thrown in jail. When push comes to shove, there are few countries I'd choose over the one I lucked into, even if there's a laundry list of things I'd like to see change about it.
So with that, I wanted to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. In my family, Thanksgiving is the most important holiday of the year, so I'll be taking the rest of the week off to spend time with the parents, brothers, closest friends and extended family with whom I celebrate every year — trying my best to soak it up and appreciate it for the gift that it is.
And, if you're already a subscriber, I wanted to make sure you know you can gift Tangle to friends and family. Our social media manager Magdalena (who I am also very grateful for!) made this fun little cartoon advertisement about sharing Tangle with family. If you click it, you can give someone a subscription to our newsletter:
Thank you, as always, for reading. And we'll see you Monday of next week.
Isaac & the Tangle team
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