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The Medicine of Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is certainly one of my favorite holidays. In most of our day-to-day lives we are striving to do/be/have more. Thanksgiving asks us to stop and look from a different perspective, to reflect on what we have, what we’ve been given, what we’ve created and become, and most importantly, who we have in our lives, and to acknowledge those blessings.

In our modern Western culture, most of our holidays revolve around giving things, but this one is about giving thanks. How refreshing! Gratitude is its own gift that we can give ourselves and our loved ones.

It has always seemed to me that those who maintain grateful attitudes are happier and healthier. In fact, there is research that suggests this. Dr. Robert Emmons is a professor at U.C. Davis. In 2007 he published a book called Thanks!: How the new Science of Gratitude can make you Happier. In it, he summarizes several research studies demonstrating that those participants who kept a daily gratitude journal reported feeling better about their lives, more optimistic toward the future (which, by the way, contributes to stronger immune system), as well as fewer health problems. They also reported sleeping deeper and longer, and feeling more refreshed in the morning.

Emmons says that grateful people tend to take better care of themselves by eating healthier and getting more exercise.

Studies have also shown that regular “counting of one’s blessings”  is beneficial for those with neuro-muscular diseases (such as post-polio syndrome), and it has a protective effect from heart attacks.  It also is wonderfully helpful in the management of daily stress, which, in fact, is a cause or major contributor to many of our common health problems. Even when life is difficult, or tragedy strikes, there is something we can be grateful for, and in fact, this is probably the most important time to acknowledge these blessings.

Use this Thanksgiving as a reminder to cultivate an ongoing attitude of gratitude, as part of your health and happiness regimen.

Dawn Potter, AP, Dipl.OM


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