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As Thanksgiving swiftly approaches, one might think this an odd subject for a health care provider. But, before we gourge ourselves with a wonderful Thanksgiving meal, I thought I would take a moment and actually point out the healthy benefits of thankfulness. 

Thankfulness is an attitude of heart from which you are aware of your blessings.  It may be for your family, friends, God, health, etc.  Thankfulness takes on many forms.  But, how does it actually relate to your health?

Health and Wellness is defined today in the dimensions of mind, body, and spirit. Included in these dimensions are physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health. We cannot have total wellness if we ignore any one of these dimensions. 

Researchers in the medical and psychological communities have been studying the impact of a positive attitude on our physical and mental health. Reports suggest that feelings of thankfulness not only encourage enjoyment of life, they also have a significant positive value in helping people cope with life’s challenges.

A few years ago, researchers Robert A. Emmons from the University of California, Davis and Michael E. McCullough from the University of Miami conducted a study on the dimensions of gratitude. They considered how an attitude of thankfulness influences our emotional and physical well-being. Their report included the following observations:

  • In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events.
  • Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal, and health-based).
  • Participants in the daily gratitude condition were more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another.
  • Grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, and optimism, and lower levels of depression and stress. The disposition toward gratitude appears to enhance pleasant feeling states more than it diminishes unpleasant emotions. The study noted that grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life.

The individuals they surveyed who reflected daily on their blessings experienced a healthier sense of well-being. How different life might be, for us and for our world, if we all kept a gratitude journal.

So, it is apparent that in order for us to truly be healthy, that we must have a balance in mind, body and spirit.  Simply starting today and this week with an attitude of gratitude, you can begin a transformation.  As you gather around your Thanksgiving table, and ask the blessing – take a moment and be truly thankful.  After all, your health depends on it!

Happy Thanksgiving from The NP Mom

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