We Gather Together…

Written by Dr. Carole L. Stephens

Thanksgiving Day is the one day we come together with family and friends at the dinner table to give thanks for our personal harvest during the year. The hymn “we gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing” helps us reflect at this special time on how thankful and blessed we really are. However, research has shown that rituals such as gathering with the family at dinnertime results in happy, healthy that are vital to our .

have distinguished the difference between routine and rituals. According to Psychologist Barbara H. Fiese, Ph.D. routines consist of active communication that conveys “this is what needs to be done” and most often include a short-lived time commitment so that once the act is completed, there is little, if any, afterthought. Rituals, on the other hand, involve “symbolic communication” and convey ‘this is who we are’ as a group and provide continuity in meaning across generations. Also, there is often an “emotional imprint where once the act is completed the individual may replay it in memory to recapture some of the positive experience.” Every routine has the ability to become a ritual once it shifts from an instrumental to a symbolic act.

This Thanksgiving I am proposing a shift – from routine to ritual. Providing continuity in meaning across generations is important. The day-to-day demands of work and other routines, leave little time to actually sit down and have meaningful conversation so that getting together to have dinner becomes a challenge for most of us. Studies have shown that “the repetitive nature of the family mealtime allows families to get to know each other better, which can lead to better parenting, healthier children and improved academic performance.” What better time than Thanksgiving to come together to reconnect with one another. Put away the iPhones and actually have a conversation with your love ones unplugged! I’m a huge proponent for creating “warm and fuzzies” with my family and seize the moment every chance I get to re-establish our familial connections that will create happy and enrich our lives.

This Thanksgiving take time to establish a new ritual: dinner and meaningful conversation. Tell the kids no Facetime, or plugs in their ears for the day. Enlist your husband or significant other, and guests in what could become a new ritual: having dinner and talking not texting! A word of caution here: do not attempt this during the football game! Tell invited guests to come to dinner and be prepared to laugh, talk and create memories and when you’ve finished that last piece of sweet potato pie and can’t get up from the couch the warm feeling you experience in your stomach won’t be indigestion – it will be the memory you just created when you gathered together to ask the Lord’s blessings!

Happy Thanksgiving!
Dr. Carole @WorkplaceDr | drcarole@workplacedr.com


Article: “A Review of 50 Years of Research on Naturally Occurring Family Routines and Rituals: Cause for Celebration?,” Barbara H. Fiese, Thomas J. Tomcho, Michael Douglas, Kimberly Josephs, Scott Poltrock, and Tim Baker; Syracuse University; Journal of Family , Vol. 16, No. 4.

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