- - Thursday, November 19, 2015

Gratitude is powerful. This quality — this source, trait and state of mind — is a force that has the immense power to bring hope, heal, recognize simple pleasures, transform, and bestow bounty to our health and well-being. As we countdown to our beautiful tradition of Thanksgiving Day, it is a special time of reflecting in gratitude – to recognize the good in our life and to acknowledge the benefit of what we have or will receive.

And, too, while our national Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday of November began hundreds of years ago to celebrate our bountiful harvest, we know what is central to thanksgiving is the gratitude transcends any one time or date. Also, the benefits of practicing gratitude indeed is life-altering, daily. It is important to reflect on how we can harness this powerful tool and lift our spirit – and those we love – with daily doses and a year-round gift of appreciation, thankfulness and gratitude.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know: About the Health Benefits of Gratitude

What is gratitude? It is mindfulness of noticing and appreciating the positive in one’s life; finding the strength in the struggles and the renewed hope that infuses joy in our moments. Gratitude shifts our focus from what our life lacks to the abundance that is already present. Being grateful can be an emotion, mood, action, or come in the form of prayer or praise. And most importantly, it is a sentiment that can be learned, and, hence, controlled and practiced daily – dare I respectfully submit, moment-by-moment. It takes effort but we can live with a sincere “attitude of gratitude.”

What are the psychological benefits of being grateful? Along with other characteristics mentioned, gratitude can usher in and reinforce these qualities:
Happiness. There is a saying: “It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy.” One study showed that by maintaining a gratitude journal for just 5 minutes a day, our long-term well-being can increase by more than 10 percent. This is comparable to doubling our income. The rationale is that when we increase our positive emotions, it excludes our ability to experience worry, anxiety, envy, resentment, and even regret.
Likability increases. Being happy makes us more “prosocial:” nicer, more trusting, giving. These traits are magnetic when it comes to making friends and deepening the bonds our relationships are built upon.
Decreases depressive symptoms. Gratitude causes us to use positive reframing and positive emotion to replace pessimistic thinking. Instead of a “downward spiral,” we can re-navigate our trajectory into an “upward spiral.”

Additional noteworthy health benefits of gratefulness …
Lower blood pressure. A study demonstrated that keeping a daily gratitude journal decreases blood pressure on average by 10 percent.
Helps exercise more. Keeping a weekly gratitude journal has been shown to increase weekly exercise by 1.5 hours a week.
Help us get our ZZZ’s. When we are consumed with fewer negative thoughts, it makes it easier for us to fall asleep. And getting a good night of sleep provides fertile grounds for counting our blessings the following day.
Less pain. Gratitude can help us exercise more, which increases endorphin levels—our body’s natural painkiller. In addition, being grateful also independently appears to improve the way we cope with pain.
Heart problems. When positive psychology telemedicine—focusing on optimism, kindness, gratitude—patients with heart problems demonstrated better outcomes.
Improved immune system. Feelings of appreciation have been shown to boost IgA levels—an important immune antibody that helps fight off foreign invaders. In addition to keeping us free of the common cold and other communicable illnesses, a strong immune system can help fend off cancer.

What are some tips to being grateful? Human nature can lead us down the path of focusing on what we do not have, instead of celebrating what we do have and what is going well. Being grateful requires work, but the dividends are well worth it.

Gratitude journal. Writing down what we are grateful for on a daily or weekly basis can evoke positive emotions. Additionally, when we are enduring tough times, it provides a chronicle of things we can look to and reminisce about to bring back gratefulness.
Closing doors. Unmet expectations can be disappointing. Oftentimes, new beginnings stem from an ending—a friendship, job, romance, or opportunity. Be grateful for the lessons learned and the opportunities that will present from that closed door.
Present moment awareness. The habit of being fully present and not wishing for something in the future or the present—but just being grateful for what is—can help shift our perspective. Catch ourselves when that moment escapes us and remind ourselves to come back.
Express thanks to those we love. Take the time to pick up the phone or write a letter or email to tell our loved ones how they have impacted us. Or, reciprocate by doing something thoughtful for them, like giving them something of ours that they may enjoy, mowing their lawn, or helping them tidy up their home. And my favorite: look at them in the eyes and tell them that they made our world a better place.
Express gratitude to people who support and serve us – at home, on the job and too within our community – and our country. The freedoms we enjoy in our amazing country are from the efforts and lives of those who fought for them. Thank them with words, a smile, or writing a note; tell their boss they are doing a great job; or leave a larger than usual tip.

On Thanksgiving Day, as we carve turkeys and enjoy the trimmings, focusing on our blessings allows us to celebrate the present moment. Living with a sincere attitude of gratitude can bring us happiness (which affects our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. Let’s reap the rewards and transform every day into thanksgiving.

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