I love that we have a national holiday that is based on the concept of gratitude. There is something warm and fuzzy about gathering to share a Thanksgiving meal with the intention of celebrating the people and things in our lives for which we are grateful. Unfortunately, that mellow goodness that is Thanksgiving is cut far too short by the consumer nightmare of the day after, which is known as Black Friday.
Considered to be the beginning of the holiday shopping season, many people shift from counting their blessings to counting the deals and door-buster sales with such speed that it gives me whiplash. There is no savoring the good in our lives, as the doors to some of the big box stores open as early as Thanksgiving evening. It’s a sad and frightening consumer nightmare.
So instead, I’d like to focus on the gratitude thing. Feeling grateful is good for your health, your mind, and even your soul. The Chinese have a saying that the emotions are the cause of one thousand illnesses. However, this refers to negative emotions and stress as the cause of disease. The flip side is also true however, in that positive emotions are associated with good health. So in the spirit of good health, here are just a few of the benefits of gratitude—actually backed up by research:
1) Gratitude can make you happier. Just the simple act of keeping a gratitude journal for several months can actually improve your mood, decrease feelings of depression, and help you feel more satisfied with life.
2) Greater feelings of gratitude are strongly related to greater optimism. When you start noticing the good things, you are no longer surprised when those good things happen.
3) Gratitude makes you more likable. Essentially, being grateful makes you nicer, and most people would rather hang out with nice people than not-nice people. So if you want more friends or better relationships, try practicing a little gratitude.
4) Being grateful can make you less materialistic. Counting your blessings makes you…well, thankful for what you have. As a result, you are less likely to be caught up in a cycle of feeling that when you have X, then you’ll truly be happy.
5) Feeling grateful is actually good for your health. Engaging in a practice of gratitude can decrease pain, lower your blood pressure, cut down on doctor’s visits, and improve your mental health.
6) Gratitude has even been linked to better sleep. When you are trying to fall asleep, and your mind is bouncing around like a bean in a rattle, try thinking about your day and the things for which you’re grateful. It’s relaxing, calming, and should knock you out for the night.
7) Gratitude is spiritual. Counting your blessings is recognizing that the Divine, however you define it, has been kind to you. You are acknowledging that something or someone outside of yourself has been good to you.
8) Gratitude feels good. Spending some time reflecting on the goodness in your life makes you more positive, less self-centered, kinder, and happier.