Being thankful is good for your health and researchers are proving it.
Being thankful is good for your health and researchers are proving it. In fact, a thankful heart may be an important key to your well-being. Health practitioners who have kept abreast of new developments are discovering that our thoughts, which create our feelings, have an impact on our physical well-being.
An attitude of gratitude as a good thing has been around a long time but now scientific studies are being done to actually test the difference it makes in blood chemistry. A study at UCLA is researching the effect of thankfulness on mounting inflammatory disorders. (They might want to look at the effect of sugar and processed foods on those inflammatory diseases also.) These studies are done by having one group of people write a gratitude journal. Each day they write down what they are thankful for and the hope is that writing will develop a deep feeling of thankfulness. Another group writes what s/he has found bad about the day. Already they know that the first group becomes less depressed, more optimistic, and has to see a doctor less. Now they are testing physical disorders.
The value of thankfulness has been around a long time. Aren’t we told in the Bible to be thankful for every circumstance? When we feel thankful, our hearts overflow. Of course those feelings create better health. We look for and expect the best in ourselves and others. Without a minute of research, we can feel the difference in our bodies, if we pay attention.
The Harvard Medical School newsletter addresses the issue of thankfulness, “People feel and express gratitude in multiple ways. They can apply it to the past (retrieving positive memories and being thankful for elements of childhood or past blessings), the present (not taking good fortune for granted as it comes), and the future (maintaining a hopeful and optimistic attitude). Regardless of the inherent or current level of someone's gratitude, it's a quality that individuals can successfully cultivate further.”
It is easy to be thankful for those people, incidences, things that we consider pleasant and agreeable. But what about the heartaches, the illness, the betrayal, and all the other things we consider destructive. Can a thankful heart can meet life’s challenges and be “thankful for all things”? How can we be thankful for the situations that bring us down and make us sad or afraid? Is it possible to manage a thankful heart in those conditions?
It may be difficult for you to have a thankful heart this Thanksgiving. At times it seems hard to find thankfulness. Perhaps you are not with family, someone has exited your life, by choice or death, illness may have brought sorrow.
It may require a quantum leap in consciousness to become thankful for our difficulties. It was Napoleon Hill who said, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries within it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” Can we learn to look at the positive aspects of any situation, even when all seems lost? If we have found that capability, then we truly have a thankful heart. It is more than surface deep.
One has to become philosophical to learn to look at hardships as a blessing. As you look back at your life, what has brought you to a higher spiritual level? Is it the easy times that have made you a strong person who is now able to understand and help not only yourself but others. Someone said, “Only the broken hearted can serve”. Your broken places enable you to help someone who has gone through the same situation. You can stand by them as no one else can because you have walked in their shoes. You have lived through while maintaining a thankful heart. Your adversities qualify you to serve in a very special way while healing your own open wounds.
Perhaps the benefit to health from thankfulness comes from the way we look at life. Do we see it as enjoyable and look for a way to learn and grow in any situation. Otherwise, it is easy to become bitter, resentful, judgmental, and unable to let go of hurts. It is a choice, not always easy, but one that will benefit your health in every way.
Our cells hear and respond to every word we speak and every thought we think. Let’s try to think and speak about what we want—not what we don’t want. If you are having a sad holiday season, look around. There are people out there who need what only you can give.
Above all, this Thanksgiving let’s take time out from eating to be thankful from the depths of your soul. I am thankful to you who take the time to read this column each week, allowing me to serve in this special way. Whatever your situation, I wish you a blessed Thanksgiving.
(Janice Norris lives in Heber Springs, has a B.S. in home economics from Murray State University, owned and operated health food stores in Illinois and Heber Springs, and wrote a weekly column in Illinois for 15 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)