Thank you to new subscribers and those who commented during our October National Book Month series. The winner of the drawing was Karen Scalf Bouchard.
“What are you thankful for this past year?” Families from youngest to oldest answer that question around a Thanksgiving table. Teachers ask children to draw pictures of something they are thankful for. Can you picture little ones with chunky crayons in hand designing masterpieces to show gratitude? Little pilgrims present programs about the first Thanksgiving and TV movies depict a golden turkey, laughter, and a picture-perfect holiday.
November: the month associated with Thanksgiving and gratitude.
Gratitude is an expression of appreciation and thanks but goes beyond a comment to a clerk following a transaction, or words to a friend when we receive a gift.
Would you be surprised to know gratitude is more than words, but affects health?
Research by psychologist Robert Emmons, author of Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, shows keeping a gratitude journal—regularly writing brief reflections about thankful moments—can significantly increase well-being and life satisfaction.
I’ve maintained a five-year gratitude journal, with a page is dedicated to a date for five years. Not only am I purposefully thinking about each day, but I have been able to reflect on the past four years staring at me on a page. It’s easy to forget so remembering becomes an act of gratitude too.
According to a study published in Personality and Individual Differences, grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people. “Grateful people are more likely to take care of their health. They exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups, which is likely to contribute to further longevity.”
Apart from physical well-being, developing an attitude of gratitude contributes to emotional health and reduces negative emotions, such as envy, resentment, frustration and regret. It’s hard to be thankful and frustrated at the same time. It’s even harder to smile in resentment. In Psychology Today, Robert Emmons, reports on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
Grateful people sleep better. According to one study, published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep. If you can jot down a few thankful thoughts about people and experiences before you go to bed at night, you may sleep better. I don’t write before bed, because that stirs my mind and I stay awake. Instead, when my head hits the pillow, I rewind my day, and thank God for five things about my day. I drift off to sleep.
Research backs the idea that thankfulness and gratitude are good for the human soul. Data cited in a Forbes article shows gratitude promotes good manners, makes it easier to build new relationships, improves both physical and psychological health, and might even help you sleep better.
Today in Part 1, we’re chatting about research related to gratitude and health, but centuries earlier, the apostle Paul penned his letter to the Philippians while in a jail cell. He lived with unpredictable circumstances and threats. He knew abundance and need, (Phil. 4:12-13) but he prescribed health-giving words to live by:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” – Philippians 4:6 – 7 (NIV)
Focusing on gratitude can lead to peace. It is life-giving.
What about you? How have you seen gratitude change your mental and emotional perspective? Share your thoughts to encourage us.
Next post: Part 2 ~ Cultivating Gratitude as a Lifestyle