Thanks-giving for immune and 💗 health

Next week many of us will be sitting down to feast with family, friends, or new acquaintances.

There may be sides of family drama or less than ideal expectations and emotional catharsis. But, I do hope it also includes a pausing to give thanks, in whatever small or big way feels appropriate.

It is the holiday of giving thanks, but I firmly believe that gratitude has tremendous benefit if extended beyond the holiday season.

On the one hand, research is confirming that practicing gratitude is good for our health by:

  • decreasing blood pressure
  • strengthening the immune system
  • improving sleep quality
  • helping soothe anxiety and depression

Furthermore, when the gracious brain is put into a MRI, we’ve learned that instead of simply lighting up the reward center of the brain, gratitude is much more complex and triggers:

  • emotional processing
  • interpersonal bonding
  • rewarding social interaction
  • moral judgment
  • the ability to understand the mental states of others.

This is amazing! Just as it is affecting our health at the immune and heart level, it’s also encouraging connection and empathy; two major factors underlying well being and meaning and significant building blocks to a healthy and whole life.

The power lies in actually establishing a practice, not just having an attitude of gratitude. Two of my favorites are:

Writing a gratitude letter: In this first practice, you write a letter to a family member, friend or mentor acknowledging something they’ve done that you are grateful for. If you have the opportunity, you can deliver it in person and read it aloud. If you’re like me, you should also bring a box of Kleenex.

Gratitude Journal/Jar: The practice here is to create a habit of writing down things you’re grateful for on a daily basis. That can happen in a journal or on colorful paper added to a jar. Start at 3 things everyday and eventually move up to 5, then 10!

I do hope you’ll take the holiday at a starting point for a gratitude practice of your own. Amidst so much pain in the world and on the eve of celebration, every reminder of our wholeness and humanity is medicine for body, mind and soul.

Happy Thanksgiving all!