In a couple of days, many will travel near and far to see loved ones for Thanksgiving; the official kick-off of the holiday season. The stress of traffic, crowded grocery stores, long TSA lines at the airport and, “This bundt cake must come out perfectly” will increase people’s level of stress dramatically. Once we have reached our destinations, we will think about and share what we are thankful for. Some will even discuss being thankful 365 days of the year. But what is it really to give thanks?
According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of thankful is:
conscious of benefit received
well pleased : glad
On the other hand, the definition of gratitude is:
The state of being grateful; warm and friendly feeling toward a benefactor; kindness awakened by a favor received; thankfulness. Gratitude is simply the feeling of thankfulness and the expression of appreciation.
The above definition of gratitude suggests that gratitude is both a feeling and a behavior requiring action. Just like the word “love” is both a noun and a verb (action word).
Studies show that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude, and can increase our well-being. What exactly is well-being?
Well-being is a good or satisfactory condition of existence; a state characterized by health, happiness and prosperity. It involves a sense of self-fulfillment, which is the feeling of being happy and satisfied because you are doing something that fully uses your abilities and talents (Merriam-Webster). The feeling of having a purpose in life and connection with others are also contributors to the idea of well-being.
In addition, gratefulness—and especially expression of it to others—is associated with increased energy, optimism, and empathy.
Grateful people have more positive views of their social environments, better sleep and continually focus on the positive in their environments with a greater appreciation of their life and what they have. Having an attitude of gratitude also allows you to have a greater appreciation for daily events. I always say, “Give God the glory for it and allow that less than perfect situation or annoying person be a tool in your tool belt to build your vision and future.” You never know how that experience will shape you and shield you to serve someone else on the planet; allowing you to really be the change you wish to see in the world.
Studies reveal that gratitude is related to higher levels of happiness and satisfaction with life, and lower levels of stress and depression. Those who have an attitude of gratitude have more positive and effective coping strategies such as seeking out emotional and social support and approaching the problem rather than avoiding it. I once heard a sermon by Bishop TD Jakes called, “You have to face it to fix it”. This positive coping strategy is related to having an attitude of gratitude explaining why it is negatively related to stress decreasing its level.
So this holiday season and throughout the year, have a daily mindful practice of gratitude. Give thanks and embrace who you are, what you have, what you have been through and your relationships both positive and negative.
Wellness Wisdom Pearl:
1. Pick one situation that you are grateful for and meditate on that for 7 days. I challenge you to pick a situation or person who you feel has wronged you and watch the door of forgiveness open in your heart and stress levels go down.
2. Sweet Potato Hummus
This is an awesome alternative to candied sweet potato and has the added benefit of a lower glycemic index so people with diabetes can enjoy it without guilt or worry of higher blood sugars. Another amazing benefit of this dish, it is high in B-vitamins and potassium which will both decrease your stress response, aid in lowering blood pressure and please your palate.
1 medium sweet potato (raw & unpeeled)
2 Tbsp. - ¼ cup Tahini (to taste)
2-5 drops liquid smoke
2 cloves of garlic
½ juice of lemon
1 T water
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp cumin
2 Tbsp fresh thyme
A little honey
Toss everything in food processor or blender and until smooth.
Yours in Health and Happy Thanksgiving!!