Baumgardner: Gratitude can be good for the mind and body

Baumgardner: Gratitude can be good for the mind and body

November 24th, 2013 By Julie Baumgardner in Life Entertainment

Every year it seems like stores try to get the jump on holiday sales by decorating earlier. This year, one could stroll down an aisle looking at Halloween costumes and just one aisle over check out the latest in Christmas decorations, candy and gifts.

Wait a minute. What happened to Thanksgiving? That important holiday celebrating all that we have to be thankful for that falls between Halloween and Christmas? Is Thanksgiving being completely overlooked for the sake of the almighty dollar? Even those who truly love the holiday season would probably agree that things have gotten a bit out of control.

Has the leap from Halloween to Christmas in some way encouraged greed? Have we forgotten to stop and consider all the blessings we have experienced in the last 12 months?

This year, there will be many across this country that bow their heads on Thanksgiving Day to give thanks for their life being spared after a line of severe thunderstorms moved across a number of states, spawning 81 tornadoes that destroyed hundreds of homes and, in some instances, entire communities. For these people and their loved ones, it will be a day of recognition that, even though they may have lost every material thing they own, they have something much more precious: the chance to keep on living life. One woman said, "This kind of experience makes you realize what truly matters. We lost everything, but we still have each other."

Believe it or not, there is actual research that shows that giving thanks is good for you. Extensive research conducted by Dr. Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California-Davis, indicates that an attitude of gratitude can improve your physical and emotional health as well as strengthen relationships and communities.

"Without gratitude, life can be lonely, depressing and impoverished," said Emmons in his book, "Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier."

Conducting more than eight years of research, Emmons found that people who view life as a gift and consciously acquire an "attitude of gratitude" will experience multiple advantages.

Grateful individuals place less importance on material goods; they are less likely to judge their own and others' success in terms of possessions accumulated; they are less envious of wealthy persons and, are more likely to share their possessions with others.

You might want to think twice before you let all the holiday hoopla steal the opportunity for you to gather with the ones you love and give thanks.

What will you be most thankful for this Thanksgiving? Some will be thankful for some time to rest and relax. Others will appreciate a time of reconnecting with relatives, catching up on all that has taken place in the past year. FThis will be a perfect time to reflect and say "thank you" to people in your life that you appreciate.

Gratitude, it does a body good.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Julie Baumgardner is president and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at julieb@firstthings.org.