Thanksgiving as a Lifestyle and How it Can Positively Impact Your Health
What national holiday, when practiced well, can promote health and well-being? Thanksgiving ! Numerous scientific studies have been done which reveal that consistently focusing on giving thanks, rather than the negative aspects of life, will result in a positive impact on ones' physical and emotional health. In one study, Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California Davis, found that "subjects who keep gratitude diaries about things for which they were thankful were healthier ad happier than those who wrote about their hassles.” Thoughts concerning what you lack and what may go wrong contribute to stress, depression, anger, anxiety, addictive behaviors and relationship problems according to Emmons; but a grateful approach to life can lead to peace of mind, happiness, physical health and deeper, more satisfying personal relationships. Many researchers have found that the ability to notice, appreciate and savor the elements of one's life has been viewed as a crucial determinant of well-being. So does that mean that gratitude is a choice? Definitely! We may not have control over our circumstances but we have control over our choice of focus. This year, why not let Thanksgiving be the beginning of a new approach to a healthier, happier life? Why not begin your own gratitude journal? Each day write all the things for which you are grateful. Emmons defines gratitude as "a knowing that we are the recipients of goodness". To really participate in true gratitude, it must engage both the head and the heart. Listing things which you know you should be grateful is not enough; but taking a few moments to think about what those things for which you are grateful, really mean to you. Experience the feeling of gratitude.
One lady I know understood the health giving benefits of practicing gratitude; but felt that her life situation was so dismal that she was having trouble finding what to be grateful for. She was ill and spent much time confined to her house. Then she had a thought that if no one had invented the phone, she would have less contact with the outside world, so she could be grateful to Alexander Graham Bell. But that was just the beginning. She then realized that all the people who were employed by the phone company worked to help bring her this service. She was grateful to them. Then, she knew that she needed a home for her phone, (this was before cell phones) and so she was grateful for the roof over her head. Gradually she began looking around her home and found many more things to be grateful for. How wonderful that someone had created glass for the windows and a refrigerator to keep foods cold. How wonderful that we don't have to use a block of ice in an ice box now. etc. She found that one thankful thought led to another and that she was feeling better as time went on.
Andy Tix , Ph.D. suggests that we "savor the moment" this thanksgiving. "One idea for promoting mindfulness before a meal is to begin with some form of grace. If you have not engaged in this practice for a while, perhaps you can reinstate it this Thanksgiving. Ideally, this would involve a meaningful expression of heartfelt thanks, and not just a memorized prayer. For instance, consider the meaningfulness of the relationships you have with those present, the bounty of food, and the opportunity to gather together in a safe, comfortable shelter. If appropriate, tap into the broader religious and spiritual beliefs that those gathered share that nurture a sense of thanks. If this isn't right for you, consider having a moment of silence in which those present have permission to express thanks quietly in a way that is meaningful to them.
As you eat your Thanksgiving meal, attend to the pleasurable sensations of the feast. Really smell and taste the food. Engage yourself fully in the conversations with your loved ones. There is no reason to rush to clear the table and do the dishes. Enjoy the moment. Begin a tradition to make meal times a “technology free zone,” with no television or phones allowed."
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and may a new understanding and practice of gratitude enrich your life!