Season of Gratitude

The holiday season is upon us. It's a great time of year for family, tradition and making memories. It's also a time that can be very busy, demanding and very stressful. So right when we need to stay our healthiest it is more challenging to keep up our healthy habits of exercise, sleep and healthy eating.  So what can we do to help stay healthier, happier and enjoy the season more? Interestingly having an attitude of gratitude is a very effective tool for accomplishing exactly that.  Dr. Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, is a leading authority in North America on the subject of gratitude.  He has published Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. Through more than eight years of study Emmons has found gratitude improves emotional and physical health. In addition, as a result of choosing and living a life of gratitude Emmons research shows that people gain measurable positive change in many areas of life including relationships, academics, energy level and even dealing with tragedy and crisis. Dr. Emmons’ research also shows that those who practice gratitude tend to be more creative, have a stronger immune system, and have stronger social relationships than those who don’t practice gratitude. Some practical suggestions for learning to live a grateful life include keeping a gratitude journal. For instance you may try writing a journal entry every day listing 10 things you are grateful for. In fact, in an experimental comparison, participants who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). Other suggestions include learning prayers and affirmations of gratitude and visual aids as reminders to stay in an appreciative state of mind. So this holiday season and in fact any time things get busy and maybe even stressful, you may want to take a moment and ask yourself, what am I grateful for today?