gratitude

First and foremost, happy Thanksgiving! In the United States, we take this special day to appreciate our friends and family, as well as stuffing ourselves with incredible food.

I think one of the most powerful symbols of the Thanksgiving holiday is this notion of gratitude. Robert Emmons, from UC Berkeley, is one of the worlds foremost experts on gratitude and its connection to our wellbeing. Based on his extensive study, some of the most fundamental results from acknowledging gratitude include (excerpt from Why Gratitude is Good):

Physical
• Stronger immune systems
• Less bothered by aches and pains
• Lower blood pressure
• Exercise more and take better care of their health
• Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking

Psychological
• Higher levels of positive emotions
• More alert, alive, and awake
• More joy and pleasure
• More optimism and happiness

Social
• More helpful, generous, and compassionate
• More forgiving
• More outgoing
• Feel less lonely and isolated.

From his article, something that I resonated with me was the correlation between expressing gratitude and embracing the positive emotions of present moments.

…gratitude makes us appreciate the value of something, and when we appreciate the value of something, we extract more benefits from it; we’re less likely to take it for granted. — Robert Emmons

Since the Portland State University’s Healthy U Wellness Challenge in January, I have kept track of moments that I am grateful for. Initially, this begins with some bigger motifs (think: apartment, car, job, etc.). As my gratitude journal came to fruition these larger themes, already accounted for, dove deeper into daily accomplishments and appreciations.

HuffPost Healthy Living blog discusses the neurological responses to gratitude (including citations for the Emmons trials within gratitude journaling). Their simple steps to maintaining an enjoyable life enumerate as:

  1. Keep a daily journal of three things you are thankful for. This works well first thing in the morning, or just before you go to bed.
  2. Make it a practice to tell a spouse, partner or friend something you appreciate about them every day.
  3. Look in the mirror when you are brushing your teeth, and think about something you have done well recently or something you like about yourself.

Setting aside the science (which is proven) and the incredible side effects to acknowledging the simple, endearing moments of your day make time to denote gratitude not just today, but every day.

Things that come to my mind today:

  1. The ability to spend a few hours baking a pie (relaxation)
  2. Waking up with and connecting with people that are near and dear to my heart (love)
  3. Having a laughter-filled conversation with my father in Montana (positive memories)

So, today, what are you thankful for?