In this season of giving “thanks” I wanted to share a few interesting, maybe obvious, things about giving thanks and how it affects your life. There’s an art to giving thanks and if done correctly can really improve your life. Let's learn how to give thanks! #thanksgiving #gratitude Click To Tweet
Reflecting on my past
One of my favorite times of the year is the holiday season (Thanksgiving -> Christmas -> New Years). Growing up in Hawaii, everything was centered around our family. On the eve of Thanksgiving, family members would come over to our house and start preparing the food. My childhood memories are all based on these holiday festivities. It was such a great time to have our entire family all gathered together, eating, laughing and just spending time together. I am so grateful to have had those moments with my family, especially since some of them have passed on.
Now in my adult years, I still find the joy and wonder in this season, but from a different angle. I get to watch my children go through the same feelings I went through.
But being on the “other side” now makes me reflect even more on this idea of gratitude. Sometimes we can get into a state of taking things for granted where we forget about the “specialness” of our current life. We often will get into a state where we continually wish for something better. I know I’m guilty of this.
I once lost my health. I hated it. I don’t recommend it to anyone, but here’s what I learned: gratitude can heal anything.
The Science of Gratitude
There’s a bunch of studies that were done on how gratitude can affect your health. Robert Emmons, a psychology professor has done extensive research on the field of positive psychology. Here in this short video from and excerpt of a live talk he discusses the power of gratitude.
- Boosts your immune system
- Decreased rates of depression
- People even chose to exercise more!
But how do we foster this attitude of gratitude?
- Write a thank you note to someone you haven’t thanked yet. This is so powerful. We hardly send people real mail anymore…and sending a handwritten thank you note will not only boost your levels of happiness, but it will boost the happiness levels of the recipient. It’s a powerful statement to say and receive the words: THANK YOU.
- Use a “gratitude journal” and write in it daily for the things you’re grateful for. If you don’t yet have a gratitude journal, get one. You can even find a digital one like grid diary. Every morning I write down 3-5 things I am grateful for. And then I really ponder upon those things. Ask yourself “how do these things make your feel?”
- Forgive someone and forgive yourself for past mistakes. There’s absolutely no benefit to holding a grudge. From the famous lyrics of Frozen “let it go, let it go…”
- Be mindful of what you already have. Remember that the things you currently have, you once wished for. Don’t just go through your day taking for granted all that you have. One fault we often run into is not noticing how amazing our lives are today. Clean, running water that we don’t have to run to the local stream to fetch. A blanket to keep us warm. A car to get us from place to place.
- Reframe your thinking. This is a biggie! Sometimes you look at your current life/situation and all sorts of negative thoughts jump out. But if you take the time to really “think” and then reframe the situation, you can find joy and gratitude for most things. For example, you come home to a sink full of dirty dishes and think “ugh, why is my kitchen always so dirty?” You can reframe that by putting on a smile and then giving thanks saying “I’m so grateful that I have the means for food and dishware to even have a dirty sink.” Shift your focus on what you’re grateful for and you’ll see wonders begin to happen in your life.
Here’s how it’s all summed up by Robert Emmons:
Click To Tweet
“It is gratitude that enables us to receive and it is gratitude that motivates us to return the goodness that we have been given. In short, it is gratitude that enables us to be fully human.”
What are you grateful for? Share it in the comments below!
Latest posts by Dr. Mike Okouchi (see all)
- The primary systems of body control - November 26, 2017
- How to Survive Daylight Savings - November 7, 2017
- Episode 59: The Lab Tests you need for optimal health - September 20, 2017