I’m looking forward to spending the holiday with my husband and some dear friends and their children. As always, I’ll be bringing my oatmeal and molasses bread. Aside from my own appreciation of the wonderful aroma wafting through my house, I love eight-year-old Emerson’s appreciation. He says he looks forward to my bread every year!
Gratitude or thankfulness gets a lot of attention in happiness studies.
If the word gratitude brings up ‘should-ness’ and nightmares of writing endless thank you notes when you were six years old (as it does for my husband), please substitute appreciation/acknowledgement or some other word!
People who intentionally notice and appreciate good things in their life become happier and more peaceful. The Institute of Heart Math (http://www.heartmath.org/) researched this over several decades and had their studies backed up by Stanford University and other esteemed institutions.
One of the most graphic examples of how emotions affect us is when measurements are taken of the variation in heartbeats between people who feel frustration or other negative emotions and people who feel appreciation. The frustrated people have jagged lines on the graph with a lot of variability while the appreciative people have smoother, more even lines.
When you feel frustrated or stressed, you literally stress your heart. Your body pumps stress hormones and cholesterol. When you feel appreciative/thankful, you pump anti-aging hormones, normalize your blood pressure, strengthen your immune system and improve your cognitive function. You literally change what your body does by what you notice and how you choose to feel.
It often feels as if emotions just ‘happen’ to us, or as if other people ‘make us’ feel certain ways. But there are ways to train your mind and emotions, and in the process help your body/mind work better.
As Marcy Shimoff says in “Happy for No Reason”, we frequently act as if gratitude/appreciation are our good china/fancy tablecloth and only bring them out for special occasions.
So as you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I invite you to ponder the ways in which you can extend appreciation or the ‘attitude of gratitude’ throughout your life.
*Could you start a gratitude journal, naming three things every day you appreciate?
*Could you thank someone whose influence you may take for granted?
*Could you thank your heart for beating over 100,000 times per day without you having to think consciously about it?
Start with obvious things, even it feels a little rote to begin with, and see where it leads you.
Enjoy Thanksgiving with those you most love.
May you all pursue your life with passion, purpose, power and peace.