I certainly need a month where giving thanks is a theme and I am speculating that many of you need it as well. It feels like we have been bombarded with bad news—between the unrelenting and devastating weather catastrophes, the disheartening (but not surprising) scandals within the entertainment industry and the level of animosity and uncertainty within our own, beloved city of Washington, D.C. Is being thankful this November just be too much to ask this time around?
Yet, it comes upon us, as it does every year. We gather around the table, whether it be our own with family or at the home of a friend, and pause to think of the blessings that we have.
It is easy for us to complain and feel discouraged but, as an occasional complainer myself, I find that it is not particularly satisfying and certainly doesn’t help to alleviate the source of the complaint. Complaining may even alienate us from those close to us, who find that our dismal attitude turns us into “Debby Downer” from the reruns of Saturday Night Live.
Harvard researcher, Shawn Achor and many others have been looking at the impact that “thinking about positive things” can do to change your life. What they have found is that a person’s external world—the house they live in, the job they have, the amount of money they possess—only predicts 10 percent of any person’s long-term happiness. That means that 90 percent of your happiness is predicted by the way your brain processes the world—either positively or negatively. Achor’s widely viewed Ted-Talk on this subject is well worth the watch, for both the scholarship and the humor.
In several research studies on the subject, including the ones at Harvard, scientists noticed that if you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present then their brain experiences “a happiness advantage.” This is when your brain, fueled by positivity, is actually rewired internally and then performs significantly better than when that person negative or stressed. Individuals enjoying the “happiness advantage” see their intelligence level increase, their creativity is enhanced, energy levels rise and that individual is 31 percent more productive.
The researchers also have provided some specific steps to generate gratitude in our lives. All it takes is a two-minute practice of naming things for which you are thankful over the course of 21 days in a row. Most recommend writing in a gratitude journal, as the physical act of writing out those items worthy of thanks heightens the experience and helps the brain to do the work of changing.
So maybe a month of thanks is just what we all need right now—and the perfect time to start a daily practice of gratitude. I am thankful for amazing practitioners in our region, particularly those who focus on preventing and reversing diabetes. We have a number of articles this month that supports lifestyle changes that enable almost anyone to overcome type-2 diabetes. This is most important now as we see the rates of this disease exploding.
I am also thankful for all the practitioners who are a regular part of our family as well as the newest additions to the Natural Awakenings family, like The Mindfulness Center, Alexis Sullivan Coaching, author Serena Wills, John Mays of Fitness Together, in Chantilly, Eider Lyddane of In Good Company and Lou Stevens of Optimum Health and Wellness, in D.C.
I am also thankful for you, dear readers, who let me know how much we impact your lives and those who read us each month and then pass along the good news that we share with their friends and family. Yes, there is a lot to be thankful for—and now even more reason to name and claim it.