“Gratitude is the wine of the soul. Go on. Get drunk!”
It’s easy to focus on all the things you want to own, create, or experience, but research shows that appreciating what you already have may be the key to living a healthier, happier life. As we gather with friends and loved ones around the Thanksgiving table (or any time, for that matter!), take a few moments to stretch your gratitude muscles—maybe even jump start a regular gratitude practice that can have a serious impact on many aspects of your health. An ever-growing body of research confirms that gratitude has a number of potent health benefits:
* Improves physical health by lowering inflammation and blood sugar; improving immune function, blood pressure and heart health, and encouraging general self-care
* Increases happiness and life satisfaction by lowering stress and emotional distress
* Improves emotional resiliency, which also helps combat stress and anxiety
* Improve mental health by triggering the release of mood-regulating chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and oxytocin, while inhibiting the stress hormone cortisol
* Improves sleep, which can have far-reaching benefits for physical and mental health
Simple Gratitude Practices
Start a tradition for the month of November by creating a Gratitude Tree (you don’t need to be crafty or coordinated to pull this off and the trip out in to nature to collect your branches is an added bonus!). You’ll have a ready-made Thanksgiving table centerpiece and a conversation piece built into one.
Check out these other suggestions for being more thankful, more of the time, summarized from Robert Emmons’ book, “The Little Book of Gratitude,” (adapted from www.mercola.com).
- Focus on the kindness of others instead of being self-centered. This will increase your sense of being supported by life and decrease unnecessary anxieties. Cherishing the kindness of others also means you’re less likely to take them for granted (which improves relationships, which makes you happier, and so on and so on!).
- Along the same vein…Give credit to others while also acknowledging your own contributions. Being grateful for someone’s help does not negate your own contributions. (In other words…being grateful for YOU can have huge payoffs!)
- Focus on what you’ve received rather than what’s been withheld. “The ‘surplus’ mode will increase our feelings of worth; the ‘deficit’ mode will lead us to think how incomplete our life is,” Emmons says.
- Acknowledge your positive emotions rather than suppressing them. “Gratitude recruits other positive emotions, such as joy, contentment and hope, and these produce direct physical benefits through the immune or endocrine systems,” Emmons writes. “A grateful perspective on life is a stress-buster, so grateful people are more equipped than others to deal with uncertainties, ambiguities and situations that trigger anxiety.”
- Avoid comparing yourself to people you perceive to have more advantages. As Emmons notes, “Wanting more is related to increased anxiety and unhappiness. A healthier comparison is to contemplate what life would be like without a pleasure that you now enjoy.” This might mean reframing your relationship to social media (leaving more time for things that really matter) or scheduling periodic social media breaks.
If it’s Good Enough for Oprah…
Here’s a tried-and-true way to make gratitude a regular part of your day, perhaps with long-lasting effects. It takes just five minutes.
Have a very grateful November!