Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Insight: The science of gratitude

By Lorraine Glowczak

Snow turns the world into one huge outdoor adventure for my dog, Zarah. She prances, runs, eats it and sticks her nose as far into the snow as she can. The fact that she is unable to speak my language, her joyful play makes it obvious how grateful and happy she is.

A happy dog in snow
The snow this past Friday was no different, but I noticed something that I hadn’t observed before. Once the newness of the snow wore off, Zarah let the beagle in her take over and began sniffing out the voles that make their home under the snow. At one point, her nose and head were buried so deep in the snow, intent on catching her prey that she missed an easy catch as a vole popped up from the white ground behind her and ran in a hopping manner toward the woods.

Smiling, I remember the times I was so intent on reaching for a goal that I missed what was right before me. They say feeling grateful helps to correct narrow vision, at least that is what Annette Bridges suggests in this week’s quote, “Gratitude helps us to see what is there instead of what isn’t.”

Thanksgiving reminds us to be grateful for those things we have, and in doing so, it helps us see those things we often miss throughout the year. There is some evidence that being thankful on a daily basis contributes to psychological health and makes us more joyful.

Before I continue, I think it is important to recognize that the holidays can be a time of sadness and anxiety for some who grieve what is not there (family, friends, etc.) The absence of these things cannot and should not be easily dismissed nor the feelings associated with those absences. If this is the case for you, may there be some peace in your heart as you go through this holiday season.

But, for the typical, everyday experience, Harvard Health online states, “Gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

A Science Daily article concurs with the above findings. “Numerous studies show that expressing and experiencing gratitude increases life satisfaction, vitality, hope, and optimism. It contributes to decreased levels of depression, anxiety, envy, and job-related stress and burnout. Perhaps most intriguing is that people who experience and express gratitude have reported fewer symptoms of physical illness, more exercise, and better quality of sleep.”

But if you are still not convinced that being thankful plays a role in a more joyful life, you can perform your own study. You don’t have to be a traditionally trained scientist to discover if these findings are true for you. Test it out. Try gratitude for a certain amount of time and – see what happens.

Now, back to the gratitude experienced by my dog last week. I’m curious how grateful she might be about the snow if she had to shovel the sidewalk.

From our home to yours…..Happy Thanksgiving.

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