November is here and many of us are already starting to think about the holidays - will there be travel involved this Thanksgiving? How many do we need to cook for? How will we afford it this year? Will we even be home to celebrate?
There are so many questions we might be asking ourselves already depending on our circumstances. So I’d like to share a little bit about the art and science of gratitude, since that’s what the first Thanksgiving was all about!
Why art and science?
Some may say that gratitude is more of a mindfulness tactic or a religious affair and it really has nothing to do with science. And some on the other end of the spectrum have argued that it must be science because the act of gratitude can be traced through the brain and its effects seen throughout the body. Well, I’m no scientist and hold tightly to my Christian faith, so in my humble opinion I think we can have the best of both worlds however you choose to look at it and all sit at the table together this Thanksgiving (and beyond)!
Gratitude - the Art
Gratefulness or gratitude is something done within relationships. We can be grateful for an act of kindness someone did for us and that thankful feeling is directed towards the kind person. Oftentimes this is reciprocated with an act with the feeling like saying, “Thank you!”, writing a note, making a social media post, giving a hug, however that feeling moves you to express your gratitude toward the other person. Depending on your gauge of spirituality, this can also easily transfer over to God or your higher power. Sometimes people are overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for a beautiful day or a closer parking spot or a feeling of comfort given in the midst of trial. However this looks, we’re going to try to find ways to take the art to a level that also affects our physical well-being!
Gratitude - the Science
Here’s something for a little self-reflection:
“People generally do not make efforts to actively infuse their daily experiences with greater emotional quality….Although most people definitively claim that they love, care, appreciate, it might shock many to realize the large degree to which they are actually experienced in their feeling world. In the absence of conscious efforts to engage, build, and sustain positive perceptions and emotions, we all too automatically fall prey to feelings such as irritation, anxiety, worry, frustration, self-doubt and blame.” (Rollin McCraty, “The Grateful Heart,” The Psychology of Gratitude, 2004)
Science has proven that people who tend to be grateful experience fewer aches and pains, improves sleep, reduces stress, and in general causes a “healthier” life. Mental health is stronger with greater ability to overcome traumas. There are more opportunities for friendships and overall better self esteem - doesn’t this sound pretty awesome? (For a quick taste of what this could look like and the studies, check out this link.) I’m feeling grateful just thinking about all of the benefits that come from being grateful!
When things are difficult, it can be hard to find those things to be grateful for - those people to be grateful to. So what can we do to help relieve some of the holiday stress and tap into these benefits? Here are a few easy steps to add to your daily life:
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.