Gratitude boosts your immune system and elevates your mood.
Yes, being thankful helps you become healthier! There are many studies and articles online that show the benefits of an attitude of gratitude. Some people keep a daily journal with the things they are thankful for. The book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp invites readers to count their blessings by recording one thousand different things that are worth celebrating as gifts and blessings. To record that many gifts, you have to start paying attention to the little surprises that show up in your life. Things like the pretty way the light catches the soap suds in the sink, the first snowflakes twirling through the air, the scent of the first fire in the fireplace, the surprise phone call from a distant friend or the refund check you weren’t expecting. These things can shift your mood and help you feel better.
There are many posts this week on social media with lists of things people are thankful for. Some people have been posting positive things in their life all month long, in honor of Thanksgiving. A few months ago, people were posting five days of gratitude on Facebook, while tagging their friends as a challenge to also post positives in their life. It was great to see all the positive things people named and the way the positivity spread quickly through Facebook. I enjoyed the shift to a more upbeat focus, instead of the usual complaints and campaign ads flooding the media.
While this time of year encourages people to openly share their feelings of gratitude, it is also an important spiritual practice all year long. When you keep a positive attitude, things in your life seems to flow smoother. If you haven’t used a gratitude journal or tried to record one thousand different things in your life, I challenge you to try it this coming year. It is also helpful to post these positive things around your home as a reminder of how each of these things are gifts in your life and why you are grateful for them. Use Post-it notes at work or make your daily list on your bathroom mirror with a dry-erase marker. Write them on a slip of paper and save in a “Blessing Jar” to review at a later date. Post your three positives on social media. Have a prayer to celebrate these gifts. Be creative with how you express your gratitude.
One of my favorite spiritual books is Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives you Life by the Linns. The title of the book refers to the children in concentration camps who would cry because they were hungry and scared. The guards realized that if they gave the children a piece of bread to hold each night, they would quietly fall asleep, knowing that they would at least have food in the morning. They were literally holding the bread that gave them life. The Linns suggest that naming the things that are not going well in your life and also claiming the things that do nourish you will help you have a better attitude towards your life situation. We used this idea of naming the highs and lows of our day with our boys when they were younger. Each evening before bed, we would take turns naming the things that didn’t go well that day and the things that were the highlights of the day. We ended with a bedtime prayer of gratitude.