An Attitude of Gratitude

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As we approach Thanksgiving, we sometimes get so caught up in the food, family and football games of the day, that we forget that this is a day designated for being mindful of and grateful for our many blessings.

Why is gratitude important? Well, we know that taking the time to acknowledge the good things in our life makes us and others feel good. But even more importantly, many studies have shown that gratitude may also improve our health. Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California-Riverside, and Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California-Davis, are among researchers who have studied the power of gratitude. They have found that:

People who have high blood pressure and practice gratitude, not only lower their blood pressure, but they also feel less hostility. They are also more likely to quit smoking and to lose weight.

People who maintain an attitude of gratitude throughout life appear to have fewer incidents of depression, phobias, bulimia and alcoholism.

Physiologically, repetitive beliefs, thoughts and behaviors cause neural pathways in the brain to form. If you continually think about those things for which you are grateful, and express gratitude, you actually become more grateful. And when you express a feeling (positive or negative), you amplify it. Thanksgiving is a wonderful day to take time to express your gratitude and amplify it into the world.

Some ways you can express gratitude on Thanksgiving (or any day):

  • Host a meal. Invite someone who can’t be with their family for the holiday.
  • If you are a guest at someone else’s home for Thanksgiving, bring a hostess gift (e.g. a bottle of wine, a lovely plant, etc.), and be sure to send a thank you note after.
  • Give a gift. If you are crafty, you might make something special for the recipient(s).
  • Send a card or e-card to let someone know that you appreciate them, and why.
  • Call someone just to let them know you are thinking about them.
  • Create a “gratitude tree.” Using real tree branches or a paper cut-out one applied to the wall, you can write some of the things you are grateful for on the leaves and hang them from the branches.

But expressing gratitude doesn’t really give us all the psychological and health benefits associated with it, unless we do it regularly. Consider starting a gratitude journal, and taking a moment each day to write down three things for which you are grateful. They don’t have to be monumental things.

For example:

  • I am grateful for my family.
  • I am grateful for my dog who enthusiastically greets me with a wagging tail every time I walk in the house.
  • I am grateful to have eyes that can see all of the beauty in the world.

How might you express your gratitude?

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