With the Thanksgiving holiday looming on the horizon you may find yourself daydreaming fondly about family, friends, food, and even the enviable turkey-induced coma. Or worse, you could be wrapped up in visions of traffic and to-do lists! Though it may be the season for increased stress, there is hope!
As it turns out there is one ingredient that, if included in your Thanksgiving festivities, is sure to knock the socks right off all your family recipes (no: its not the gravy). Its simple, its easy, its gratitude.
This post highlights a handful of the many health benefits of gratitude, and explores 10 ways to get more of that grateful feeling!
Gratitude and your Health
Dr. Robert Emmons of UC Davis has spent years studying and publishing the physical and psychological phenomena of gratitude and although his topic may seem simple, his findings are anything but.
In one complex case (in which he contrasted a group of gratitude-journal-keeping participants against a control group of non-journalists) he found that those who actively noted and expressed gratitude:
- reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events
- were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.
- and were more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another, relative to the hassles or social comparison condition.
- had greater amounts of high energy, positive moods, feeling of connection to others and optimism and improved sleep quality
Or as Michael E. McCullough put it in a scholarly article aptly titled “The Grateful Disposition,”
"Gratitude [is] significantly and positively correlated with Agreeableness, Extraversion, and Conscientiousness and negatively correlated with Neuroticism."
Gratitude and Your Holiday
Basically, feeling grateful not only improves sleep quality and decreases pain but also encourages all those lovely traits like being outgoing, sociable, kind, and compassionate! Wouldn’t it be more enjoyable if you could be more kind, conscientious and compassionate while hanging out with Great Aunt Marge, Uncle Tom, Grandpap, and Mom?
How stressful would your holidays be, then?
The moral of the story is simple: just by mixing in a little gratitude at the dinner table you can not only improve your health and happiness but also have family festivities full of the same!
10 Ways to Grow More Gratitude
So, how does more gratitude sound for your holidays? Here are 10 ways to grow more gratitude courtesy of Dr. Robert A. Emmons:
1. Keep a Gratitude Journal. Establish a daily practice in which you remind yourself of the gifts, grace, benefits and good things you enjoy. Setting aside time on a daily basis to recall moments of gratitude associated with ordinary events, your personal attributes, or valued people in your life gives you the potential to interweave a sustainable life theme of gratefulness.
2. Remember the Bad. To be grateful in your current state, it is helpful to remember the hard times that you once experienced. When you remember how difficult life used to be and how far you have come, you set up an explicit contrast in your mind, and this contrast is fertile ground for gratefulness.
3. Ask Yourself Three Questions. Utilize the meditation technique known as Naikan, which involves reflecting on three questions: “What have I received from __?”, “What have I given to __?”, and “What troubles and difficulty have I caused?”
4. Learn Prayers of Gratitude. In many spiritual traditions, prayers of gratitude are considered to be the most powerful form of prayer, because through these prayers people recognize the ultimate source of all they are and all they will ever be.
5. Come to Your Senses. Through our senses—the ability to touch, see, smell, taste, and hear—we gain an appreciation of what it means to be human and of what an incredible miracle it is to be alive. Seen through the lens of gratitude, the human body is not only a miraculous construction, but also a gift.
6. Use Visual Reminders. Because the two primary obstacles to gratefulness are forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness, visual reminders can serve as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude. Often times, the best visual reminders are other people.
7. Make a Vow to Practice Gratitude. Research shows that making an oath to perform a behavior increases the likelihood that the action will be executed. Therefore, write your own gratitude vow, which could be as simple as “I vow to count my blessings each day,” and post it somewhere where you will be reminded of it every day.
8. Watch your Language. Grateful people have a particular linguistic style that uses the language of gifts, givers, blessings, blessed, fortune, fortunate, and abundance. In gratitude, you should not focus on how inherently good you are, but rather on the inherently good things that others have done on your behalf.
9. Go Through the Motions. If you go through grateful motions, the emotion of gratitude should be triggered. Grateful motions include smiling, saying thank you, and writing letters of gratitude.
10. Think Outside the Box. If you want to make the most out of opportunities to flex your gratitude muscles, you must creatively look for new situations and circumstances in which to feel grateful.
Enjoy your holiday!
Written by Dr. Nicole