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Thanksgiving Every Day
Photo: Matt Antonino
Imagine that you are watching television, tuning out the commercials, when something suddenly catches your attention—a new product claiming all kinds of amazing, too-good-to-be-true benefits. Absolutely guaranteed to improve your health, boost your immune system, promote clearer thinking, give you better-quality, longer sleep and more energy. Not only that, this new product claims to be able to improve your emotional life as well by giving you more joy, improving your relationships, increasing your enthusiasm and determination and decreasing your anxiety, symptoms of depression and stress. And then the most unbelievable claim of all—it’s free!

Several recent studies have shown that there is indeed a way to receive all of these benefits and more and the only cost is the effort it takes to build a new habit. What is this new “wonder drug?” Some are calling it the science of thankfulness.

In a study done by Robert Emmons, PhD of the University of California, Davis and Michael McCullough of the University of Miami, volunteers were divided into three separate groups. Each group focused on different aspects of their lives once each week. One group was told to focus on the hassles of life, those inevitable irritations that afflict all of us, the second group focused on something that had blessed them and enhanced their life and the third group focused on ordinary events such as a shopping trip, etc.

Focused on Blessings

Surprisingly, the grateful group experienced multiple benefits just from intentionally focusing on their blessings. They were happier, had less colds and headaches, exercised more, had more joy, were more energetic and even more helpful to those around them. Overall, their perception of their quality of life was significantly greater than that of either of the other two groups.

In a second study, students were encouraged to make the practice of gratitude a daily habit instead of just once a week. The results were even more dramatic, both to the students themselves and to those around them. They were less inclined to depression, less envious and anxious, while becoming more empathetic and considerate of others. In a follow-up study, those who practiced daily gratitude were less materialistic as well. They were less apt to feel that their satisfaction in life was tied to their possessions.

So how can we realize all the wonderful benefits of gratitude? Just like developing any other worthwhile habit, practicing gratitude will take just that—practice. It takes intentionality and discipline to develop the habit of thankfulness, but it can be done.

One way to begin practicing daily gratitude is to start a Gratitude Journal. Set aside a few minutes each evening to record specific things that you are thankful for that day. Think particularly of how those things have benefited you and the people who played a role in them. As you journal, look for patterns in your thankfulness. What kinds of things are you recording each day? You will begin to see the importance of people in your life, the hand of God as He walks with you and how meaningful experiences are enriching your life.

As Thanksgiving approaches, we are all a little more inclined to think about the things for which we are thankful. Instead of celebrating Thanksgiving one day every year, why not make every day Thanksgiving Day!

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By Leslie Olin
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