But that doesn’t make everybody thankful
Sometimes appreciation or thankfulness seems half-hearted. It comes in as a weak kind of emotion next to its powerful cousins of love, anger, and hate. You know the songs about love that sometimes want to make you cry, and yet thankfulness has never seemed to make people want to weep into their pillows at night.
Thankfulness for what you have or what someone has done for you is rather underrated. It actually has the ability, however, to make you feel on top of things so that your blood pressure goes down! When you lack thankfulness, you can be locked into a never-ending whirlpool of dissatisfaction, always on the lookout for and aware of the things you lack.
Why is that that you don’t appreciate what you have? Maybe it’s because you weren’t taught how to appreciate stuff because it is a skill; something you learn. You might simply have accumulated too much and now you don’t appreciate it anymore. For some, owning possessions makes them less grateful than simple pleasures like family gatherings, or chatting with someone they like or watching a movie with someone special.
Fortunately, thankfulness can be taught and learned. In the last decade, there have been heaps of books and studies around thankfulness. Those people whose lives are not touched or marked with gratitude; those whose lives are governed by a grievance or sense of entitlement – they are miserable. All their material wealth, success, or health, is incomplete if not accompanied by a sense of gratitude. They are not made whole. In contrast, those who practice gratitude; those whose lives are marked by gratified are made whole. It was C.S. Lewis who observed that grateful people were emotionally healthy people. Words of thanks are the inner health being audible.
Practice being grateful every day, not just on Thanksgiving Day! Look at some benefits:
- When you give thanks to others, you make them feel good: When you show appreciation to others for the things they do for you, you make them feel good, and you feel good too. Just a simple thank you, which we do not seem to hear of much anymore, goes a long way in helping yourself to develop better friendships. You will find you get along better with your family and colleagues. By making others feel good, you feel good and others feel good around you too!
- Being grateful and thankful builds your confidence: When you are grateful and thankful for the things that happen and come your way, even if it’s as simple as the waves lapping softly on the beach or a beautiful sunset, a bird singing in a tree, it kind of makes you feel good and thankful, filling you with self-esteem. Somehow you find yourself in a good place, not needing to compare yourself with others. Being thankful is contagious, and that golden dust of thankfulness gets rubbed onto others!
- Being thankful makes you a positive person – no time for negativity: Those who give thanks often are much more positive people. They view things differently. When your glass is only half full, positive people give thanks that there is the possibility of it becoming full, whilst negative people will turn it away because it is only half full, with no chance of it becoming full. Positive people make positive things happen around them.
- You sleep better when you are thankful because you are more content: When you think about the good things that have come your way, you feel great. Your body relaxes with no tossing backward and forwards because nothing is going your way. It’s a good idea to keep a journal beside your bed at night. At the end of every day, write a list of all of the things you were thankful for that day and see how much better you sleep. Sweet dreams.
- Being thankful just fills you with joy: When you are in a joyful, thankful state, you are more attuned to other people’s feelings too. It produces empathy in you; being in tune with what other people’s point of view is as well. When you are thankful, you get through the tough times because you derive a kind of peace and happiness thinking about the things that make you happy. In this kind of bodily state, your body and mind stay healthy.
- Thankfulness brings contentment: When you practice thankfulness, you increase contentment; leading to more satisfaction with life because you are more joyful, more pleasurable, more enthusiastic – anxiety and depression kind of slink away.
- Thankfulness is good for the brain: The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that regulates functions in our body like our sleep, our temperature, appetite, growth, and metabolism. Studies show that the hypothalamus becomes activated when we are feeling thankful, or we display kindness to others. The studies on thankfulness reveal that people can’t function without grace, and that is powerful. What is grace? It is sheer kindness and decency; goodwill. As noted above, gratitude and thankfulness are also addictive. Showing acts of kindness and goodwill flood the brain with the chemical known as dopamine. When we receive thanks from others or we give thanks, our brain kind of gives us a natural ‘high’. It feels so good, we do it more, and so it rubs off onto others.
- Pain is decreased: It almost seems impossible to believe that something so simple like saying thanks and giving thanks can actually alleviate pain. But it’s true! There was a study completed once, called Counting Blessings vs. Burdens, completed in 2003, where unwell ailing patients kept a gratitude-journal. 16% of those who participated reported reduced pain symptoms. The patients were also more eager to get down to exercising and were more motivated to recover.
- Being thankful reduces stress: Sleeping better produces relaxation and when we are in a state of gratitude and thankfulness, it is simply physically good for us, meaning that our nervous system and our hearts benefit as well. In 2007, patients suffering from hypertension were asked to count their blessings just once a week. After the week, their results showed a decrease in their blood pressure. That’s not all. The benefits of gratitude make us more resilient when it comes to stress and trauma.
- Increased energy and vitality: Who doesn’t want more energy? Research, again, on gratitude, continues to prove that those who are thankful have naturally higher energy levels – they are more relaxed and healthier. That must mean it lengthens our lifespans, doesn’t it?