Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thanksgiving Gratitude - exercising it

I really don't care if you think I'm a big cheeseball for posting this. Personally, I think living life with as much gratitude as possible makes a person more beautiful than a perfectly toned ass or any other superficially beautiful attribute for that matter. The question is are we born with a gratitude gene or is it something like exercising a muscle, something we can build with practice?

What would happen if we extended the tradition of giving thanks, typically celebrated just once a year during the holiday season, throughout the entire year? Such gratitude would be rewarded with better health, say researchers.

No pill? No strict diet or exercise regimen? Can just a positive emotion such as gratitude guarantee better health? It may be a dramatic departure from what we've been taught about how to get healthier, but the connection between gratitude and health actually goes back a long way.

"Thousands of years of literature talk about the benefits of cultivating gratefulness as a virtue," says University of California Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons. Throughout history, philosophers and religious leaders have extolled gratitude as a virtue integral to health and well-being. Now, through a recent movement called positive psychology, mental health professionals are taking a close look at how virtues such as gratitude can benefit our health. And they're reaping some promising results.

Taken from

Positive psychology emerged in the last ten years or so and has taken a serious look at the impact experiencing gratitude in day to day life has on our health.

Researchers at the University of Connecticut found that gratitude can have a protective effect against heart attacks. Studying people who had experienced one heart attack, the researchers found that those patients who saw benefits and gains from their heart attack, such as becoming more appreciative of life, experienced a lower risk of having another heart attack.

The research on gratitude challenges the idea of a "set point" for happiness, a belief that, just as our body has a set point for weight, each person may have a genetically-determined level of happiness. The set point concept is supported by research that shows that people return to a characteristic level of happiness a short time after both unusually good and unusually bad events. But the research on gratitude suggests that people can move their set point upward to some degree, enough to have a measurable effect on both their outlook and their health.

Taken from Counting your Blessings

I know that my own ability to reach for gratitude has helped me keep my head above water many times in my life. I hope my gratitude muscles get stronger and stronger, not atrophied and lazy. I came across this little silly video on youtube and had to post it mainly because it shows some beautiful footage of my home town, Victoria BC. The 'gratidudes' who shot this clearly believe that there is a mind body connection in the pursuit of gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all and thanks to Victoria and everyone at her feast for making this thanksgiving so memorable.

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