We celebrate Thanksgiving in America. Rooted in our history and presidential declarations, it is a time when families and people gather to eat and watch football. Oh, wait! I mean, get together and show gratitude to God and each other. Many, like our family, have a time to declare the things we are thankful for as we eat our traditional Thanksgiving meal.
Thankfulness is rooted in the idea that there is something to be thankful for in your life. I would propose that it is the way our brains were designed to operate at maximum efficiency. The attitudes of criticalness, ungratefulness, and being generally unappreciative contribute to our societal ills and distress in our bodies. To be thankful brings health to every aspect of our beings. It is a practice and outlook that should be celebrated every day if we want our days to go better than they would if we focused on what is wrong with life.
According to the Mayo Clinic, gratitude can improve sleep and our immune systems. It can also decrease chronic pain. Other studies show that the more grateful you are, the happier you are. This makes sense, and we didn't need a study to tell us that, did we? Thankfulness not only improves your mood but also decreases depression and anxiety and helps build strong relationships. Thankfulness releases oxytocin which is more than a love or "cuddle" hormone. It is a stress-reducing hormone that lowers blood pressure and promotes healthy social interaction. In fact, gratitude creates homeostasis in our brains, which doesn't just move us to a "center point" in our mood but creates an environment of learning, problems solving and creating.
In some of the research studies I read, people were asked to write a sentence or jot down notes of gratitude daily. This seems to be a key. Although the research focused on the outcome of doing such gratitude exercises, I viewed the "writing down" as a key. So often, we speak out what we are thankful for, and I nearly always begin my morning prayer time with thankfulness, but these people went beyond saying it. They wrote it.
Challenge #1 – Write a sentence or more about your thankfulness every day when you awaken. Get a thankfulness journal and write in it every day.
Challenge #2 – Tell someone what you are thankful for daily. You can tell your spouse, kids, or co-workers or text someone, or share it with a stranger in a store. Articulate your thankfulness to somebody. You can tell them what you wrote that morning or share why you are thankful for them.
I will guarantee this will change your life for the better. It will give you the benefits of thankfulness and change the people around you as well. Maybe your gratitude will set them on some appreciation of their own! You can't control that, but you can reduce your trips to the doctor and become a person to which others are more drawn if you take up the challenges above. My hope is that you develop a pattern of thankfulness that lasts your entire life.