The Power of Giving Thanks

What exactly is giving thanks? Giving thanks is about expressing gratitude or showing appreciation for someone or something. 2020 has been a year filled with so much challenge, sadness, hardship and strife that it’s hard to imagine giving thanks to anything or anyone but it’s an important thing to do. Maybe now more than ever there is power and health in giving thanks. So how do you get started? We are going to keep it really simple – just three steps.

1.Set some quiet time aside and make a list of what you are thankful for. Start with the tiniest thing and expand from there. It can be as small as a beautiful sunset or that cup of latte you have each morning or as large as a job or the unconditional love of your partner.

2. More than likely some of the things your grateful for are other people or acts they perform for or with you. Take the time to thank them and let them know what you appreciate. If you want to broaden your scope for gratitude expand this to a stranger as well. It could be that customer service person who spends extra time and effort to help you or the person that holds the door for you when you’re entering the post office.     

3. Keep your list and refer to it as needed. This is very helpful for the days when everything seems to go wrong or you’re feeling particularly down. By reviewing the list you’re reminding yourself that there are good things and it will help you to keep a more balanced perspective.

There are people who make gratitude a part of their daily lives. These individuals make a list each day of what they are grateful for. Studies have shown that people who practice gratitude and reflect upon it regularly tend to experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better and express more compassion and kindness. All of these traits tend to make a person more likable and appreciated. 

Scientists have actually been able to document the benefits of gratitude. I really enjoyed reading an article from nutrition-health-and-wellness which outlines scientific studies that define the psychological and physiological benefits of being grateful.

Here, five proven reasons why giving thanks is actually good for you.

  • Counting your blessings boosts your overall health. Emmons’ and McCullough’s research showed that grateful people had less depression, stress, lower blood pressure, more energy, and greater optimism.
  • Daily gratitude can slow down the signs of aging. In older adults, Emmons and McCullough found, a daily practice of gratitude even slowed down some of the effects of neurodegeneration that often occurs as we age.
  • Minimize stress. Cortisol aka the “stress hormone,” is generated and can deplete the immune system and raise blood sugar levels. A study conducted at the Institute of HeartMath Research Center in California found that positive emotions like appreciation significantly lowered levels of cortisol.
  • Being thankful increases bonding. Research by U.S. psychologists Sara Algoe and Baldwin Way indicates that gratitude also can lead to better relationships. The study highlights the increase in the production of oxytocin, a hormone that supports calm and security relative to relationships.
  • Gratefulness is good for the heart and waistline? According to research Emmons cites in his book Gratitude Works!, people with high blood pressure who actively express thankfulness “can achieve up to a 10 percent reduction in systolic blood pressure and decrease their dietary fat intake by up to 20 percent.”

In summary, gratitude is good for you and good for the world around you. This Thanksgiving may not be like others. Maybe we can replace the large family gatherings with some basic gratitude? 2020 is a year in which we can all use some extra kindness and appreciation.

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Dr. Vanessa Rodriguez is a board-certified general practitioner with more than 15 years of patient care experience. She takes an integrative approach to patient care that considers the whole person – mind, body, and spirit – and is deeply committed to assisting her patients in achieving and sustaining optimal health. Dr. Vanessa is also a skilled writer and medical reviewer, specializing in preventive care and health promotion. Her articles are written in an approachable manner that is simple to comprehend and implement in one’s own life. Dr. Vanessa’s mission is to equip her patients and readers with the knowledge and resources necessary to live their greatest lives.

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