By USA Today•
What are you thankful for? Taking time to think about the question can actually be good for your health.
“Research suggests that individuals who feel grateful experience lower blood pressure, improved immune functions, recover more quickly from illness, and can more effectively cope with stress,” explains Shilagh Mirgain, PhD, a health psychologist with UW Health (University of Wisconsin).
“Gratitude has one of the strongest links to mental health, more so than even optimism.” And the benefits can be life-long. A sense of gratitude can reduce the lifetime risk for depression, anxiety and even substance abuse disorders.
But, what does it mean to experience gratitude?
“What we’re talking about is the appreciation for what is valuable and meaningful in life,” explains Mirgain. “And the first step is to begin creating an awareness of what you are grateful for in life.”
Mirgain explains that cultivating a sense of gratitude involves actively noticing the good things that are occurring in life.
“Feeling grateful allows us to connect to those things that make us feel glad to be alive,” she notes.
Some individuals may refer to the practice as “counting your blessings,” but it is essentially taking the time to acknowledge what is going right for you and your family.
Whether you use a journal, share on Facebook, or write on a slip of paper you place in a special jar, Mirgain suggests taking time each day to write down three to five small things you are grateful for.
“Research shows that writing down what you are grateful for is more effective than just thinking the thoughts,” she says.
Mirgain recommends starting out with a daily practice because it is a powerful way to shift perspective. Once you get going, you can transition to at least once a week. The effects remain just as powerful. And, you don’t have to be grateful for significant things.
“It can be small things like your husband doing the dishes, or child picking up toys,” comments Mirgain. “Or, of course, major ones like getting a promotion or a child speaking her first words.”
As Ella Fitzgerald sang, “Into each life a little rain must fall.” Everyone, at some point, is confronted with difficult and painful situations. And while we can’t always control what happens, we can control how we react.
“A sense of gratitude can actually help us cope with stress and trauma,” says Mirgain. “And from the challenges, we can truly learn a tremendous amount about ourselves.”
When dealing with a challenging situation, Mirgain recommends asking two basic questions, “Ask yourself what you have learned from the situation, and how have you become stronger as a result.”
Finding a sense of gratitude, even during tough times, can help you adjust, and even move on from the situation.
Research has shown that one of the greatest contributing factors to overall happiness in life is how much gratitude you show. So in addition to counting the reasons why you are grateful, expressing it outwardly can also have a significant impact on your life.
Whether it is a friend, colleague, family member or acquaintance, we all have someone in our lives who has been a positive influence. Taking a moment to tell them whether in-person, or through a letter, email, text or phone call, will not only make them feel better, but it will benefit you, too. It can also help improve the quality of your relationships.
“Try telling your spouse or children why you are grateful for them,” Mirgain suggests. “You’ll be amazed at the positive influence it can have on the relationship.”
Expressing the things for which you are grateful can take many forms. Whether it is part of a mindfulness practice, or it is a topic of conversation with a friend, the important thing is to find a practice that works for you.
“Mix it up,” Mirgain suggests. “Through art or journaling, meditation or conversation, finding what you are grateful for is a discovery that can lead to profound changes in your life.”
“I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”
George Washington, on October 3, 1789, made the following proclamation and created the first Thanksgiving Day designated by the national government of the United States of America.
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.” Continue reading
“We have seen the splendor of our natural resource spread across the tables of the world, and we have seen the splendor of freedom coursing with new vigor through the channels of history.”
by Scott L. Vanatter
Ronald Reagan believed in America. He believed in America’s promise. He saw the best in his fellow Americans. We, too, believe in America, its promise, and see the best in our fellows.
At the beginning of our republic, President George Washington declared a Day of Thanksgiving his first year in office. In the midst of the sore trials of a massive Civil War, President Lincoln established a regular Day of Thanksgiving.
In the spirit of his predecessors, and while he tackled serious economic and foreign policy challenges, President Reagan delivered a series of eight Thanksgiving Day messages from 1981 through 1988. He repeated previous presidential calls to “set aside” this special day as one of thanksgiving and prayer to God. Further, he challenged the nation to recall and fulfill their responsibility to “give” to those who are less fortunate. There are those who lacked of the “abundance” which America enjoyed — they do not enjoy the abundance which comes as a result of our industry. Many around the world do not enjoy an “abundance of freedom.” America’s example of freedom is one of the lasting legacies we leave for a world — we are the last best hope of mankind. Reagan reminded us to live up to that legacy. Continue reading