It’s a little early to be thinking about Thanksgiving. However, it’s never too early or inappropriate to consider gratefulness. I saw a project years ago that had family members regularly throughout the year write on slips of paper things they were thankful for and put them in a jar or box or journal. Come the holiday, they’d take it out and take turns reading them out loud, whether their own or each other’s.
Broaden that concept. Much has been said about the benefits of being grateful. The brain’s “primary reward chemical” is dopamine. The thing is, we have good stuff happen to us all the time but unless we put some real focus on those things, we don’t get our blast of the stuff.
Studies have shown measurable effects on almost every system in the body, including mood neurotransmitters, reproductive hormones, social bonding hormones, cognitive and pleasure related neurotransmitters, inflammatory and immune systems stress hormones, cardiac and EEG rhythms, blood pressure and blood sugar.
While I am hardly religious, “You reap what you sow” makes a lot of sense. If you focus on happy and healthy things, way more often than not, you will be. I already lectured you on stress this month. Here is one more tool to help eliminate it.
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Do you feel grateful for your degree of health every day? Do you count your blessings for what you do have in this world every day? Do you truly acknowledge the good things you get in life? If you swerve to avoid hitting a car, are you thankful you make it safely? Are you content with what you have? These are just a few things to frame gratitude.
The reason for writing down the good things in your life is it helps to narrow the focus, make it a more honest sense, involve more of your senses, making it more real. Speaking it out loud again later reconfirms it. Someone, in fact, has even created an extremely simple exercise that anyone can do each night.
The Three Blessings merely involves doing the following: before going to bed each night, write down three things you are thankful for that day. Then write down WHY those things happened! Think about it — not just “I’m grateful for the beautiful sunset,” but add, “because I’ve chosen/am able to live in such a beautiful place.” This is much more complete and meaningful.
In this hustle and bustle life we tend to have, this electronic, blindingly fast, connected life we lead, the more and more out of touch with the simplest tools are getting left by the wayside. On your busiest school or work day, make the time (two minutes?) to try this exercise. Whether you put them in a jar or book or just toss them the next day, you’ll have taken one more small step toward happiness and health—without even breaking a sweat!