By: Carter Williams, Director of Xperience Growth Coaching & Consulting
The Thanksgiving holiday is founded in gratitude. Its origins come from early settlers giving thanks for their first harvest in their new land.
What they probably didn’t know then that we know now is how important expressing gratitude is. Being grateful and expressing it has a myriad of positive effects on our mental, social and physical states. Essentially, gratitude makes us healthier and happier.
Each second, our senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste) take in over 2 million bits of information. Our mind must filter that information to figure out what is the most important of those bits for us to do something about. The “filtration” system of our minds consists of deleting, generalizing & distorting the information in nanoseconds. And this happens predominantly unconsciously. We don’t have to think about it.
How does our brain know what to filter? Dr. Matt James, Master Trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) says that “the brain uses our beliefs and expectations and what we’ve been focusing on to determine what to delete and what to save. Our brains organize saved data, store it, draw conclusions, tell our bodies how to react and formulate lessons & learnings.” In short, Dr. Matt says “Your brain seeks what you seem to be seeking.”
When we practice expressing gratitude our brain actually looks for evidence of positivity all around us, saving it and telling our bodies to react to the more positive things in our environment. We then have more positive thoughts, feel more positive feelings and are more likely to have positive actions.
Having and showing gratitude helps you have more positive social interactions and helps to build stronger relationships with others.
According to Psychology Today, when we acknowledge and thank people for specific acts they’ve done for us, it makes them more likely to want to start or deepen a relationship with us.
Additionally, Psychology Today talks about another study performed at the University of Kentucky that shows the higher people rank in gratitude, the less likely they were to “retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.” I think we can all agree that less revenge and more empathy are keys to positive social relationships.
What disrupts our health and our bodies? If we elevate to a 30 thousand foot view, it’s the things we’re either doing or not doing. Are we eating the salad or a cheeseburger, are we working out or staying in bed? For most of us, opting for the salad over the cheeseburger, working out versus sleeping in takes self control.
Among the symptoms of diminished self control and personal discipline is the will power to make those hard decisions. We all know, for the most part, which choices will impact us positively. The website positivepsychology.com shares a study that shows when people specifically express gratitude, they have higher rates of self control to make decisions better for themselves in a wide range of areas of life including health & finance. The article says “being thankful can provide us the resolve we need to make choices in our lives that serve us, emotionally and physically, in the long-run.”
Let’s face it, if you’re like me, you need a little resolve to not pick-up the cookie or to start the workout. Practicing gratitude is a pathway to better physical living.
So, as we are surrounded with the messages of gratitude and thanksgiving this week, use it as a springboard to have more intentional gratitude in our lives. Our minds, relationships and health will thank us. Literally.