It's Not About The Gravy
Smart And Spicy
November 23, 2017
The velvet texture of gratitude, as comforting as that first sip of hot cocoa on a chilling day; it
cossets us, suffusing mind and body.
Feeling grateful is good for us; it improves physical health and extends longevity. Grateful people have fewer aches and pains, and feel happier, according to Forbes.
Studies show that gratitude can reduce depression. Empathy and sensitivity increase along with gratitude.
Gratitude may be effective against trauma; it helped people's resilience after 9/11.
Feeling thankful can lower blood pressure and improve immunity; it helps sleep, according to Robert Emmons, UC Davis psychology professor.
Your heart may thank you; grateful people had less inflammation and healthier heart rhythms (UC San Diego School of Medicine.)
"That’s the opposite of what stress does," says researcher Paul Mills. "When I am more grateful, I feel more connected with myself and with my environment."
The stress hormone cortisol was 23 percent lower in people who felt grateful. Dietary fat intake was reduced as much as 25 percent in people who kept a journal about their feelings of gratitude.
How does this work?
Gratitude summons positive emotions that yield direct physical benefits, thought to be via the immune or endocrine system, according to Emmons.
Thinking about being thankful triggers the parasympathetic nervous system; that can protect us and decrease levels of stress hormones. It might even increase oxytocin, which makes relationships feel so good.
* * *
Midst the usual family disagreements and floods of advice about vegan, veg, dealing with seasonal sweets and calories, there is a reason for this holiday.
What it's all about, as Alfie learned, (only from the song, and only too late) is having a good life, trying to make it better.
Think of the particular joy of seeing early morning light.
Think about the smell of sweet air, on the first summer night.
Often, we're not aware of very simple things we count on having. Realizing how lucky we are might help us feel grateful.
Did you wake up this morning? (good reason to feel thankful.)
Are you mobile? Can you get around? Can you function pretty normally?
When you walk outdoors is there a war being fought right outside your front door?
Can you express your opinion if you want to?
Have you lived your whole life, so far, inside a refugee camp?
Are you able to think clearly?
Are you breathing?
* * *
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – feeling grateful to have these?
Take a deep breath. Are you able to?
When you want light or sound can you just tap a switch on the wall and you get it?
Are you free to move around, go to a different state, travel?
Are you free to worship, however you choose? Are you free to not pay attention to any religion, if you wish?
Are you free to choose how you're going to dress, what you're going to wear, how you wear your hair?
Are you free to go for a walk without reporting where you're going?
Are you free to choose whom you love?
When you turn on the faucet do you get fresh, clean, water? Is the water unlimited?
Can your eyes see?
* * *
Yes Virginia, there is a Thanksgiving.
Unconvinced? Get real.
In the anxious world we're in today gratitude is the anti-. It's all-comforting.
Be grateful you can see and read and comprehend. The list is long.
I hope you won't take these thoughts as too saccharine.
Even your willpower can be affected by feeling grateful.
Here's a technique for Thanksgiving day:
Leave the table for moment, and make a quick list in your mind of things you feel thankful for. Doing that can clear your mind, and help you reset, according to Susan Peirce Thompson, a cognitive scientist specializing in the psychology of eating.
“Gratitude replenishes willpower,” Thompson says.
"If there were a drug that did that, whoever patented that drug would be rich," adds Thompson.
"Gratitude is very powerful."
What gratitude does is it lasers our thoughts on what we have, not what's missing. This gets easier the more you do it.
Possibilities to do, thanks to Harvard Medical School:
Try just thinking about a person who did something nice for you and thank them in your thoughts.
Start a new habit of writing to thank another person once a month. You can let that person know how much you appreciate them and how much you enjoy knowing them. You can keep it to yourself, or mail it, or read it to them in person. You can even write one to yourself.
Try writing down good things that happen each day. You may think of them as gifts, and you may (or may not) share them with someone important to you.
Count blessings. You can pick a number of them to write about each week. Remember how you felt when good things happened.
Meditating, or praying, may also work.
Empower yourself, that's what I'm suggesting. It helps, and it helps.
I wish you a lovely Thanksgiving!
Carole Bell is a writer interested in everything.
You can write to her at: firstname.lastname@example.org