"Count your blessings" was my mother's lifelong advice, and now it's official: She was right.
People who feel grateful have more energy, enthusiasm and a more positive outlook on life than those who don't, The Wall Street Journal reports. It notes that a "growing body of research" finds gratitude is a key ingredient to physical, emotional and mental well-being.
The timing of the report is, well, timely, coming on the eve of the American festival dedicated to gratitude. Even allowing for the myth we mix with memory, who we are and how we got here deserve a rich celebration.
In that spirit, here are a few enduring blessings for which we as a nation have reason to be thankful.
We are Americans. Patriotism is back with a bang, and not a moment too soon, given the rise of others. The spark was President Obama's foolish apologies to the world for our history.
The backlash of anger among those who are proud of their country became an instant movement, with the Tea Party the tip of the spear. But the spirit of American exceptionalism is not limited to their ranks, as millions of voters proved in the midterm elections.
Yes, we have serious national problems, and every family has its private sufferings. But the depravation and growing chaos in the world, illustrated by the global threat of terrorism and the exchange between North and South Korea yesterday, put our challenges in perspective.
The comparison reminds us that the USA remains mankind's last, best hope. Or, as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called it, America is "the indispensable nation."
Try to imagine the world without the United States. Who would nurture the universal longing for liberty? Who would guarantee the security of democracies and minorities around the globe? Who would sacrifice their own sons and daughters to liberate others?
Albright got it right: Our nation is indeed indispensable.
We are not Europeans. Which means we don't riot, like the French bureaucrats, when our government asks us to move a cushy retirement from 60 to 62. It means our young people don't riot, like the Brits, when our government asks students to pay a bigger slice of their still heavily subsidized education costs. Not being European means we are too busy working to riot.
It also means we, at least most of us, prize liberty and individuality above womb-to-tomb welfare. We not only muster a volunteer army big enough to defend ourselves, but also our allies. We don't expect anybody else to do it for us. In fact, our defense umbrella covers much of the world.
We are the most generous people the world has ever known.
Other cultures, peoples and natural wonders are a joy to behold, but history records no match for our national imperative to help and to share.
Our foreign-aid budgets, which prop up the United Nations and many of the international relief groups that provide everything from anti-malaria nets in Africa to food and medicine in Haiti, have no equal. Even now, with many Americans hurting, there is no serious movement to cut back our help to foreigners, including to many who don't like us.
That spirit is ingrained in our culture. Starting with the Boy Scouts and going all the way up to the multibillion-dollar philanthropy of Bill Gates, Americans don't just preach generosity, we practice it. Too often, we do it alone, while other countries hoard their cash, but what else is new?
Not much. It's just that we need to remind ourselves every now and then of how fortunate we are to be Americans.
As Mother said, count your blessings. It's good for you.
Michael Goodwin is a New York Post columnist and Fox News contributor. To continue reading his column, click here.