Thanksgiving is one of the most celebrated national holidays. I mean, what's not to like about getting together with family and friends to eat until you need a nap, then eat some more and go shopping at midnight?
The first Thanksgiving dates all the way back to October of 1621 and was celebrated by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims. Don’t believe us? Just refer to wikipedia. Anyways, the Pilgrims and the Native Americans used this 3 day feast as a celebration to give thanks. Thanksgiving is more than just a great day to fill up on great home-cooked fixin’s. Giving thanks does something very interesting to our brain and our behavior.
Working in the hospice industry can be very rewarding. By immersing ourselves with the dying and their families, we have a unique perspective on life and it is easy for us to be thankful for everything and everyone we have in our own lives. Being thankful does more than just acknowledging that we are happy about something. In fact, being thankful has a domino effect of positive emotions, behaviors, and health.
There have been numerous psychological studies on the effects of gratitude. Gratitude is defined as the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. When we feel gratitude toward someone and really take the time to acknowledge how truly thankful we are, we allow ourselves to feel good.
Still not convinced? Fair enough, here are our top 5 reasons why you should start.
1. Increased Optimism & Less Headaches
In 2003, Robert Emmons conducted a study in which one group was asked to keep a journal of all the things that they were grateful for. The other group was asked to keep a journal of things that they found annoying and reasons why they were better off than their peers. The group that kept a journal of the things they were grateful for showed an increase in their amount of optimism. In addition to increased optimism, the group recorded more consistent exercise patterns and even physical health. This group had less headaches! Crazy to think that something as seemingly simple as being grateful can have effects on our physical health.
2. Better Sleep
Chinese researchers conducted a study to examine the relationship between gratitude, sleep, depression, and anxiety. The results of the study are a little tricky to understand so please refer to the graph to get a better visual of how it all works. The researchers discovered that higher levels of gratitude resulted in better quality of sleep, which in turn, resulted in lower anxiety and depression. Interestingly enough, the study revealed that gratitude did not directly affect anxiety and depression, but instead had an indirect effect on the two. Gratitude results in better sleep. Better sleep results in lower anxiety and depression.
To put it simply, gratitude is the key. Being grateful has a domino effect on creating other benefits in your life and wellbeing. Be grateful and be ready for all the good that comes from it!
3. Happy Hypothalamus
The Hypothalamus is an extinct species that closely resembled the Hippopotamus of Africa that we all know and love.
Totally kidding. The hypothalamus is a section of our brain. It is mostly responsible for the production of our body’s most essential hormones and chemicals. Our hypothalamus controls our body temperature, appetite, mood, metabolism, growth, and libido all through the release of hormones and chemicals. Multiple studies have been conducted to examine brain activity and whether we have the ability to influence it. Findings show that when a person feels gratitude, their hypothalamus is activated and the activation of the hypothalamus results in healthy body chemistry and function. So being grateful has a positive effect on how we feel both physically and mentally!
4. Increased Resilience
We all go through struggles in life. That is just the way it is. The important thing to consider is how we respond to these inevitable struggles and difficult times. Studies show that gratitude speeds up people's ability to recover from trauma and stress. People who have gratitude for the good things in their life have metaphorical blinders that allow them to focus on the positives.
Imagine looking at a painting of a city in ruin. The buildings are crumbled all over the streets and shops are on fire left and right. There is a fog of gloom that is creeping just above the city, hindering any sunlight from coming through. On the street, there is a head on collision between a bus and a mini-van. On the sidewalk on the left in front of a fire hydrant there are two people hugging. Gazing at the painting as a whole, one likely sees only gloom and doom. The scene probably causes you to feel sad. But, if you choose to focus on the two people who are hugging, you may notice for the first time that they are actually smiling. Suddenly, you will probably feel completely different about the painting of the city in ruin. Gratitude works the same way! It gives us a completely different perspective on things and makes us more resilient to life's stresses and other inevitable struggles.
5. Appreciational Forces
It is in our human nature to feel connected with other people. We all have a deep desire to please the people around us. There is nothing worse than being around someone who only brags about their accomplishments. These people tend to drive others away. Gratitude does the opposite. When you look someone in the eye and thank them for what they do and what they have done, you are building a strong connection in that relationship. Not only does it make the person you are grateful for feel great about themselves, but it also makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Ever heard of the neurotransmitter, dopamine? Dopamine is the chemical that makes us feel good. It is the reason many of us fall victim to addition as we crave that rush of dopamine that is triggered from various things. Gratitude activates parts of our brains that release dopamine. In other words, once you start feeling the gratitude, you will not be able to stop because it will make you feel amazingly happy. And people will love you because of your ability to recognize all the good things in life!
Okay, I should be more grateful. But How?
Now that we have provided 5 benefits of being grateful, we recommend taking steps to make the habit of gratitude a bigger part of your life. One way that some of the SONO team members practice gratitude is by keeping a gratitude journal. If you don't believe us, do some research yourself and see the difference it's making in lives all over the world. The holidays shouldn’t be the only time of year that we stop to think about all the blessings that we have in our lives. So go order yourself a gratitude journal on Amazon and start making gratitude a bigger part of your every day life.
If someone on the street was selling happiness for $15 wouldn't you buy it? We know we would.