During Thanksgiving, as well as every day of the year, let's pause in our hurried lives and holiday preparations to consider a very simple, but highly effective, stress management tool. GRATITUDE. That's right, simple gratitude. When you find one thing, however small, to be thankful for and you hold that feeling for as little as 15-20 seconds, many subtle and beneficial physiologic changes take place in your body:
Stress hormone levels of cortisol and norepinephrine decrease, creating a cascade of beneficial metabolic changes such as an enhanced immune system;
Coronary arteries relax, thus increasing the blood supply to your heart;
Heart rhythms becomes more harmonious, which positively affects your mood and all other bodily organs;
Breathing becomes deeper, thus increasing the oxygen level of your tissues.
Important mental changes take place as well. It lifts your mood, makes you smile and gives you a more positive outlook. Best of all, you can do it any time, any place and reap the immediate benefits of your change in perception.
It isn't always easy to remember to be grateful. The cultural tendency is to put a negative spin on almost everything. However, you can train yourself to make gratitude an almost instance response to any situation. For example:
Make it one of your first thoughts when you wake up to be grateful for another day. It will set your mental framework for the whole day.
Be grateful for what sustains life everyday such as the earth, trees, water, animals, sun and air, for without these things, we perish.
Express gratitude to others for simple, kind or helpful gestures and watch everyone's day get brighter. (Especially wait staff! You'll get much better service!)
Even when things seem to just get worse, express gratitude for the challenge that a situation brings. It will open your mind to many new ideas and possibilities.
Then of course, there are the usual things we take for granted, like our spouses, children, family, pets, friends, co-workers. Catch their eye, and try a smile, a hug, kiss or pat while feeling grateful for their contribution to your life and then experience the synergy from the positive flow.