A special day for thanksgiving hasn’t really caught on in Australia yet, despite the good efforts of many here to celebrate a National Day of Thanksgiving in May each year. However, it may be time to consider its inclusion as part of a preventative approach to health care, because gratitude is so good for you!
In his inspiring book, Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, psychologist Robert Emmons cites research that found saying “thank you” measurably increases our happiness and health.
He refers to an earlier study published in 2003 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology which found that participants who kept weekly ‘gratitude journals’ felt better about their lives as a whole and were more optimistic about the coming week. They also reported fewer physical symptoms, and lower levels of depression and stress than people who are not grateful.
I’ve noticed that gratitude is often the catalyst that brings healing into my life, too. For instance, stress and anxiety have lessened when I’ve changed a resentful attitude to being thankful for someone’s creativity, intelligence or community-mindedness; or when I’ve stopped belittling myself and been grateful instead for my unique abilities.
To feel thankful, we have to consciously stop the insistent negative whirring in our head, be still and replace that negativity with better thoughts. “Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true, and you will bring these into your experience proportionably to their occupancy of your thoughts,” suggests spiritual thinker, Mary Baker Eddy, in her seminal book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.
Like many others, I can relate to the connection between a grateful heart and a healthy body. But for me it goes even deeper than that.
As a practitioner of Christian Science, I’ve found that gratitude is more than now-and-then positive thinking or a verbal expression of thanks. To make a difference, it needs to be shown in greater patience, a humble attitude and good deeds … to express more consistently our real essence or Soul.
As such, it forms part of a preventative approach to healthcare and becomes a natural, foundational part of life, inextricably linked to consistent health.
Could it be that we have more control over our health than previously thought? And, if so, are there other qualities of thought besides gratitude that we could and perhaps should be cultivating?