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Living Well By Living Out Your Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I hope you’re having (or getting ready to have) a great day, surrounded by friends, family, and food. I also hope you read yesterday’s “Wellness Wednesday,” where I did NOT scold you for your Thanksgiving food choices, but gave you a couple simple tips for making the most of your celebration.

Over the last few weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, I’ve been talking about gratitude. Imagine…a national holiday created solely to celebrate gratitude. I think that’s an amazing thing. It demonstrates humility, gives us courage, and puts us back in touch with what’s important in our lives. You can quickly identify your values and priorities by observing what you are thankful for.

If Your Thanksgiving Isn’t Happy…Give Thanks

Not everyone is enjoying the holidays. Loneliness, depression, fear, and other dark feelings seem to rise to the surface this time of year. Maybe we’ve been conditioned to expect joy and happiness from the holidays, but don’t always experience them, so we live with disappointment. For some people, this time of looking back brings up only hurtful memories. I understand completely. I’ve been through some years when I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the holidays. Personal disappointments and the loss of loved ones took away all my strength and joy. I think we all go through those times.

If you’re going through a rough patch, I don’t want to sweep it under the rug with some grating platitudes to “buck up.” It’s important to keep in mind that bad times come to every life, but they don’t stay forever. Better times always come. You will get through this. You’ve come through so many trials before, I know you can make it. One way to get through it is to think of one thing you’re thankful for.

When you’re walking through the desert, you just need a little water to keep you going until you reach the other side. Gratitude is like a canteen that never runs out. Sometimes, I wish we had a holiday like Thanksgiving every month that makes us pause to consider our blessings. But, since there’s only one on the calendar, we need to cultivate our own times of reflection and thanks.

That’s why the activity I showed you the last few weeks is so powerful. Gratitude takes our eyes off our problems and puts them on our solutions. Taking a minute every day, every week, or at least every month to write down something you’re thankful for turns your attention to what is good in your life. Sometimes, that’s enough to turn a dark day into a celebration. Gratitude can give you confidence when it seems like the world is against you or you’re going to fail.

Gratitude can actually improve your physical health.

Be Thankful…Be Healthy

Gratitude can have a pretty astounding effect on our bodies.

  • Thankful thoughts trigger production of dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin, the hormones associated with happiness, comfort, satisfaction, community, friendship, and safety. I think it’s important to notice that your thoughts determine your feelings. It’s a biological fact, and it means the ball is in your court. You have complete control over what you think, so you can control how you feel.
  • Those same neurotransmitters manage stress and anxiety. Gratitude has been used to manage post-traumatic stress disorder. They can boost your confidence and brighten your outlook.
  • Serotonin (and it’s cousin, melatonin) regulate your sleep. When you get enough sleep, it affects your mood, cognitive function, and just about everything else.
  • Gratitude fights depression and wins consistently.
  • Gratitude reduces inflammation and improves heart health, both directly (by means of the neurotransmitters) and indirectly (by fostering the willingness to make good nutrition and exercise choices). When we’re down, we tend to make self-destructive choices, like piling on the junk food, but when we’re feeling positive, we tend to take better care of ourselves.

Plus, an attitude of gratitude makes you more fun for others to be around. And when you are sincerely grateful for the people around you (and you sincerely express it to them), it makes them feel better, too. Win-win.

So take some time today to review your list of things your grateful for. Add to it. You might even want to take a moment to share the list with someone (especially if their name is on it). Put a note on your calendar for a month from now, to have another Thanksgiving Day. You don’t have to shell out for the big meal again (unless you want to), just a time of gratitude. Do it again in January, and every month thereafter. That’s a New Year’s resolution worth sticking with.

Let’s use Thanksgiving as a springboard into a great new year!

I’m thankful for you – your encouragement, your comments, and your faithfulness to read and share this blog. You’re changing people’s lives, starting with mine. Thank you.

“At the end of your feelings is NOTHING. At the end of your principles is a PROMISE.”  — Eric Thomas

“At the end of your gratitude is LIFE.”  — me


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