Remembering to Give Thanks

Thanksgiving

Our thought patterns have equal weight in our well-being, just as much as the food we eat and the physical activity we engage in (some would say it holds an even greater importance than the last two).

Since October is the month for our Canadian Thanksgiving celebration, I thought we would focus on gratitude.

 

What is Gratitude?

Gratitude means thanks and appreciation. It’s the warm feeling you get when you remember the person who told you to drop your 1980s hairstyle and get with the new millennium already!!!

(yes, that’s me – I wore that hair well into the 90’s! Yikes!)

 

 According to Sansone et al. gratitude is “the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself; it is a general state of thankfulness and/or appreciation”1.

On some level, we all probably know that if we think positively and appreciate what we have, we’ll feel better.  It just kind of makes sense and rings true.  “Count your blessings”, “focus on the positive”, saying grace before a meal to give thanks, and so on.  These are things that many of us have heard throughout our lives.

 

Research Proves It

But does giving thanks really make a difference?  Is it “all in our head” or is there something tangible that happens when we regularly express gratitude.  According to Emmons et al., in their research called “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life”2, it does make a difference.  Within their research they had people do various things:  writing down five things they were grateful for every day, filling out surveys at the end of the day about their sleep patterns, exercise patterns, feelings of well-being, daily hassles and so on.  In the end they found that inducing a state of gratefulness through various gratitude exercises led to some emotional, physical, or interpersonal benefits.

 

Their general findings were:

  • People had a more positive and optimistic appraisal of their life
  • They had an increased sense of connectedness to others
  • They spent more time exercising
  • Those with physical limitations had fewer physical symptoms
  • People counting their blessings regularly were more likely to have helped someone with a personal problem or to have offered emotional support to another
  • Their quality of sleep was better
  • They had overall greater optimism
  • Negative thoughts decreased
  • Social bonds and friendships increased
  • It enabled flexible and creative thinking
  • It increased coping mechanism when dealing with stress

 

It also showed that gratitude not only makes people feel good in the present, but it also increases the likelihood that people will function optimally and feel good in the future.

 

What are you grateful for today?

The above research showed that an effective strategy for producing reliably higher levels of happiness is for people to write, on a daily basis, about those aspects of their lives for which they are grateful.

This month, I would like you to do a little writing.  At the end of every day, I want you to write down 5 things that you are grateful for.  Make this is daily habit.  Have a notebook by your bedside and write down 5 things that made your life a bit better that day.

I’ll get us started.  Five things I am grateful for today:

  • The beautiful colors that come with Fall.
  • My husband who cooks amazing meals for me.
  • My clients who inspire me every day and allow me to make a living.
  • Warm tea that soothes my sore throat.
  • A roof over my head.

 

Your turn.

 

 

References:

(1) Sansone, R.A. & Sanson, L.A. (2010). Gratitude and Well Being the Benefits of Appreciation.  Psychiatry MMC.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3010965/

(2)Emmons, R.S. & McCullough, M.E. (2003). Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. (84) 2. http://www.breakthroughealing.org/Documents/GratitudeStudy2003.pdf

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Post by Lynne_Loiselle

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