Want a healthier family? Give thanks every day. Does this sound too good to be true? What would happen if we extended the tradition of giving thanks and instead of celebrating “Thanksgiving” just once a year during the designated holiday, we turned it into a permanent habit? Researchers say such gratitude would be rewarded with better health.
You Ask: No pills? No new diet or special exercises? Can just a positive emotion such as gratitude, really guarantee better health? It may be a 180 degree turn from what we’ve been taught about how to achieve better health, but the connection between gratitude and health, actually goes back a long way.
“Thousands of years of literature talk about the benefits of cultivating gratefulness as a virtue,” says University of California Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons. Throughout history, philosophers and religious leaders have extolled gratitude as a virtue integral to health and well-being. Now, through a recent movement called positive psychology, mental health professionals are taking a close look at how virtues such as gratitude can benefit our health. And they’re reaping some promising results.
“Grateful people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health behaviors like regular exercise, a healthy diet, regular physical examinations. Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress,” Emmons says.
Are you ready to grow your daily dose of gratitude? Try one of these ideas from Utah State University Extension http://extension.usu.edu/htm/news/articleID=8156 , for ways to develop gratitude. You really can’t go wrong!
Put it down on paper. Keep a journal or notebook where you can record those things you are grateful for every day. Even after a stressful day, it can be soothing to review the day in your mind and make notes of the bright spots or highlights. Not only will you feel more at ease after a long day, but it will likely give you an improved ability to keep things in perspective. It is also a great way to look back on where you were and where you are today.
Take time to reflect on things for which you are thankful. Maybe writing in a journal isn’t for you. If not, spend a few minutes sitting in a quiet place and think about and appreciate what you have and those around you. No moment should be taken for granted, and pleasure and happiness could be found in being grateful for the simplest joy or the most challenging time of your life.
Tell others thank you. If you’ve ever been accused of not expressing appreciation, it’s not too late to change. Even if you have to make a note and stick it in several places to remind you to do it, people in your life need to know you appreciate them and you notice their efforts.
Show thanks. Even though you may still have financial and personal stressors, don’t forget those less fortunate than you. Explore ways to donate time, money or service to ease the burdens of those who have less than you. During the holidays, there are ample opportunities to help those in need. Whether you take food to a local food pantry, offer to put up Christmas lights for a neighbor who is disabled or participate in sponsoring a family through a local charitable organization, reach out and do something. Helping others is a great way to show you are grateful for what you have and that you want to share it.
Being grateful must be a conscious decision before it becomes a habit. Remember , if you live a positive, grateful, successful life, you will attract other positive, grateful and successful people. Making your life full of gratitude can only bring happiness.