Thanksgiving and the Power of Gratitude: Nourishing Your Body All Year Long
November is a month of transition, as fall gives way to the chilly embrace of winter and the high expectations for a cozy and festive season. This is a time when we come together to celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday dedicated to showing, sharing, and receiving gratitude.
But did you know that incorporating daily habits of nourishing yourself with gratitude and sharing thanks with others can actually lead to increased happiness and overall well-being?
According to a Harvard Medical School paper posted on August 14, 2021 titled “Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier!", practicing gratitude can improve your physical and mental and is associated with greater happiness.
This November, let's explore some of the many different ways to practice gratitude that can have long-lasting positive effects on your life as well as with those with whom you share this powerful practice.
Derived from the Latin word “gratia”, gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what someone receives, whether tangible or intangible. It is an attitude of appreciation under any circumstance even when nothing exciting happens.
It is often described as the “social glue”, the key to building and nurturing strong relationships, and practicing gratitude magnify positive feelings more than it reduces negative feelings.
The Power of Gratitude in Nourishing Your Body
Gratitude isn't limited to the warm feeling you get when you receive a kind gesture; it can profoundly impact your physical health. Research has shown that grateful individuals experience fewer health complaints, such as headaches, digestion issues and sleep problems. As see in this Greater Good Magazine post, published by the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at the University of California, Berkeley titled “Is Gratitude Good for your Heath?”,
This is because practicing gratitude has the extraordinary ability to reduce stress, calm the nervous system, and promote better heart health. When you express gratitude, it's not just a feeling – it's a physiological response. Your blood pressure decreases, and your vagal tone, indicating the strength of your parasympathetic nervous system (the "rest and digest" system), increases. This state of relaxation can help you conserve energy, lower your heart rate, and stimulate digestion, contributing to an overall sense of well-being.
A Grateful Diet: Better Choices for Your Body
Gratitude doesn't stop at reducing stress; it can also influence your dietary choices. Grateful people are more likely to engage in healthy activities like exercising, maintain a strong network of family and friends and make good nutritional choices like eliminating inflammation-causing sugary foods from your diet. Other better choices include switching to fresh water over sodas, choosing fresh over processed foods, and ensuring you get enough quality protein every day.
According to Dr Mark Hyman “If we don’t get enough quality protein at every meal, you can end up being anxious, depressed, hungry and tired”. So consuming the right quantity of high-quality protein is not only fundamental to our optimal health but also our mental well-being.
Practical Ways to Incorporate Gratitude
Here are some easy ways to incorporate gratitude into your daily life that will not only nurture you but are also the key to building strong relationships.
Daily Gratitude Journal
Start a gratitude journal where you write down things you're thankful for each day. Use a notebook, on your phone or computer. Whether it's a sunny morning, a good cup of coffee, or a heartwarming conversation, writing them down is a powerful reminder of life's blessings.
Express your gratitude by sending handwritten thank-you notes to friends, family, colleagues, etc. You can even write a heartfelt note to someone who may not expect it, showing them your appreciation.
Share a Meal
Invite a friend or family member to share a meal with you. Food brings people together, and by preparing or enjoying a meal together, you can deepen your connections and show your gratitude.
Give back to your community by volunteering your time. Helping others can be a profound way to express gratitude.
Offer sincere compliments to those around you. Let someone know you see them, and appreciate their hard work, their kindness, or their unique qualities. Or it could simply be complimenting someone you pass on the street or in the market on their scarf, dog, or perfume for example.
Take a few minutes each day to practice mindfulness or meditation. This can help you focus on the present moment and become more aware of the things you're thankful for.
Donations to Charity
Donate to a charity or cause that you're passionate about. Giving to others is a powerful way to show your gratitude for what you have.
Acts of Kindness
Perform random acts of kindness, like paying for a stranger's coffee, holding the door for someone, or helping a neighbor or someone with their groceries. Kindness often leads to a sense of fulfillment and gratitude.
Spend time in nature and appreciate the beauty that surrounds you. Take a walk or hike, visit a park, or simply enjoy the changing leaves. Nature has a way of reminding us of life's wonders and is a perfect backdrop for expressing gratitude.
Small Gestures and Gifts
Show your appreciation to your friends, loved ones, colleagues, etc by gifting them health-focused items. It could be a book, plant, fresh flowers, scented candle or a packet of your or their favorite tea, nourishing food or small treat.
Link between Expressing Gratitude and Health Choices
It may sound unusual, but expressing gratitude can also inspire us to make healthier choices when it comes to nourishing our bodies. Research indicates that individuals who cultivate gratitude tend to experience improved physical well-being, often driven by their engagement in health-conscious activities, such as a focus on nutrition. According to Lisa Walsh, PhD, a postdoctoral research associate in social/personality psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a former researcher at Sonja Lyubomirsky's Positive Activities and Well-Being (PAW) Laboratory at the University of California, Riverside, "We have discovered that encouraging people to express gratitude may motivate them to adopt healthier eating habits, incorporating more fruits and vegetables and reducing their consumption of junk food."
Simply put, a grateful heart can inspire you to make better food choices.
Why Practice Gratitude All Year Round?
Enduring gratitude goes beyond just feeling happy and positive. It’s certainly not about ignoring or suppressing your negative emotions. In the book,"The Gratitude Project: How the Science of Thankfulness Can Rewire Our Brains for Resilience, Optimism, and the Greater Good," the authors share that "practicing gratitude actually amplifies our positive feelings more than it diminishes our negative ones."
Gratitude is like a friendly companion that helps you see the bigger picture in life and makes you more resilient when facing tough times.
Putting It All Together
Incorporating gratitude into your life doesn't have to be complicated. It's as simple as taking a moment each day or week to reflect on the positive aspects of your life, sharing your thanks with others and even making small gestures of thanks. This act of gratitude can help reduce stress, promote better dietary choices, enhance sleep quality, and improve overall health.
So, if you're looking to be the happiest you can, and make healthier choices, consider starting your own gratitude journey. The science is clear: gratitude is not just a feeling; it's a powerful tool for a healthier, happier you.