There are many topics to think about during Thanksgiving – a wonderful meal of turkey, stuffing, perhaps football or late hour shopping. But, as you get ready to celebrate the holiday, perhaps the most important aspect of Thanksgiving is taking time to be grateful for what truly is important to you – family, friends, health and having a home to enjoy your meal. Numerous research studies have shown the positive impact of giving thanks and appreciation have upon your brain and well-being. Below are three findings to share with others drawing upon the themes of appreciation, gratitude and expressing thanks.
- Saying Thanks, Feeling Gratitude can Rewire your Brain: Research indicates that keeping a regular gratitude journal and thinking about what you are thankful for increases long-term wellbeing by more than 10 percent. Or, as positive psychology writer Amit Amin (@HappierHuman) explains “that is the same as doubling your income.” How does this happen? The sustained practice of expressing gratitude becomes a form of neural training that actually can rewire your brain. Thanksgiving is a good place to start. Think about what you are grateful for during the holiday, noting even small things that take place throughout the day. The next step is creating a daily Thanksgiving practice to audit as many positive experiences during a day. Notice emotional and interpersonal benefits from taking on this daily appreciation practice. As your thoughts and mind change, your brain will start to create new neural pathways (this is known as neuroplasticity). More on the power neuroplasticity in upcoming blog postings.
- Gratitude Improves your Health: Appreciation has also been shown to have numerous health benefits including: improvements in sleep, decreasing in blood pressure and feeling less bothered by aches and pains. According to a 2012 study, grateful people take care of their health, exercise more and more likely to attend regular doctors’ check-ups. The Harvard Health Letter sums it up by explaining that “expressing gratitude may be one of the simplest ways to feel better.”
- Gratitude Really does Make you Happier: What is the link between gratitude and happiness? Professor Robert A. Emmons, Phd a psychologist at the University of California at Davis is a leading expert in the field of positive psychology. Emmons research found that the process of giving thanks regularly does have a positive impact on emotional well-being, with individuals feeling higher levels of positive emotions, feeling more alert and awake, having more optimism and overall happiness. Gratitude can also help block toxic, negative emotions.
Being grateful for your family, great food and at the Thanksgiving table is a start. But, the real positive benefits accrue if you can cultivate a regular, daily Thanksgiving practice. As you enjoy your pumpkin pie, take it all in and give thanks one bite at a time.