As Thanksgiving comes to a close, many of us in the United States stop to think about the many things we are thankful for: family, health, life, friends. It’s this time when we slow down, just slightly, to enjoy and reflect. But why only this week? Why not everyday?
Recently scientists have begun to chart a course of research aimed at understanding gratitude and the circumstances in which it flourishes or diminishes. They’re finding that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits:
- stronger immune system
- higher levels of positive emotions
- more joy, optimism & happiness
- acting with more generosity & compassion
- feeling less lonely & isolated
When you write about a happy event, your brain relives that good feeling. And when you focus repeatedly on something that feels good, your brain rewires itself to do that more effortlessly in the future. By practicing awareness of the positive things in life, we fight off the brain’s natural tendency to scan for and spot the negatives.
A while back, I was given Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts.” After reading, I was challenged to write 1,000 things that I am grateful for. Everyday I add to my list. It’s not complete yet, but it challenges me to reflect everyday on even the smallest things I am thankful for: beautiful fallen leaves in the Fall, a hot cup of coffee, little hands that want to hold mine, Friday night football, breath. I have noticed that when I take time to be thankful, the problems I dwell on don’t seem to be so significant. I don’t need to “worry so much about tomorrow for tomorrow will take of itself.” It’s time for me to take time to focus on today and the gifts that this day has brought.
On her website, Ann Voskamp has a video that perfectly reflects where we need to be. It says “ How many moments of my life have my eyes been wide open, but I’ve been rushing, racing, sleeping right through? How many of the popsicle days and run & twirl & spins days; how many of the moments of melting ice cream, crazy laughter & dangling bare feet? Someone wake me up to the beating of wings & splashing of water, the setting of fog at twilight. We have to figure out a way to stay fully awake. How do we awake to the moments and stop living like life is an emergency, something to speed wildly through? Life is not an emergency. Life is our only dessert, too sweet, to delectable, to be hurried through. Pause between bites. Gratitude of the seemingly small & insignificant, this is the seed that plants the giant miracle in the midst of it all. Receive each moment for what it really is Holy, ordinary, amazing grace … a gift. “