The Health Benefits of Thanksgiving

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-17

Thanksgiving has health benefits.

You are probably wondering what I’m talking about.  How can I benefit from that extra slice of pumpkin pie, that cheese ball as big as my head and that mound of mashed potatoes with real butter?  Actually I’m not referring to the food, I’m talking about the real thanksgiving.  That which springs from the gratitude born in our hearts.  It seems true thanks-giving amplifies what’s in our hearts when we express it with our mouths. 

Stumbled across this article a couple of Thanksgivings ago in USA Today:  “ Saying thanks, it turns out, isn’t just pious or polite. It’s good for you.  But there’s a catch: You have to do it even when the calendar does not say “Thanksgiving.”  “It doesn’t really work if you do it only once a year,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California-Riverside.

Practicing gratitude is like exercising, says Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California-Davis: Use it, and you won’t lose it, even when times are tough, as they are for many folks right now.  Lyubomirsky and Emmons are among researchers who have studied the power of gratitude and learned, for example, that: 

•People with high blood pressure not only lower their blood pressure, but they feel less hostile and are more likely to quit smoking and lose weight when they practice gratitude. This was demonstrated by calling a research hotline once a week to report on the things that make them grateful.

•People who care for relatives with Alzheimer’s disease feel less stress and depression when they keep daily gratitude journals, listing the positive things in their lives.

•Those who maintain a thankful attitude through life appear to have lower risks of several disorders, including depression, phobias, bulimia and alcoholism.

•Most people can lift their mood simply by writing a letter of thanks to someone. Hand-deliver the letter, and the boost in happiness can last weeks or months.

Practicing gratitude in these systematic ways changes people by changing brains that “are wired for negativity, for noticing gaps and omissions,” Emmons says. “When you express a feeling, you amplify it. When you express anger, you get angrier; when you express gratitude, you become more grateful.”

And grateful people, he says, don’t focus so much on pain and problems. They also are quicker to realize they have friends, families and communities to assist them in times of need. They see how they can help others in distress as well, he says.”  (Kim Painter, “Stepping Up the Gratitude,” USA Today, Monday, November 24th, 2008, 6D)

So when you give it comes back to you… good measured, pressed down and running into your lap.  Wait!  Didn’t Jesus already say that?  Give thanks with a grateful heart… and the dividends are huge.  

Sound advice… now pass the mashed potatoes.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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