"Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."
This time of year can bring up different emotions for many people depending on your family experiences, beliefs, customs and cultural lineage. Thanksgiving has never been a holiday I enjoy or like to celebrate. As a nurse, I typically sign up to work the holiday as a way to avoid it and divert my attention towards attending to others. As a parent, I have taken the time to share the truth of our history in an age appropriate way through books and discussions with my kids. Honoring traditions is important, but not at the expense of others grief or loss. As I continue to grow and learn, cultivating new rituals, and staying open to human connection through helping and caring is the true gift of abundance.
Acknowledging this gift is in the practice of gratitude.
The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia or gratus, which means grace, graciousness, or thankful pleasing. This act of appreciation either expressed or received, releases potent neurotransmitters in the brain. Dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins are responsible for our emotions, and when they are released they enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside.
Take a moment to remember a time when someone said something to you that genuinely recognized you in a meaningful way. Perhaps it was something you did or said, now think about the sensations that were released when that moment happened. Typically, when feel good hormones are released, there is a sense of warmth that radiates throughout the body, causing temporary feelings of bliss, happiness and contentment. Practicing gratitude can increase neuron density, establish new neural pathways for the brain, and lead to greater emotional intelligence, all while making you feel good!
With gratitude, there is a reflection on what you have as opposed to what you don't have. That reflection acknowledges the goodness in our lives. Once our basic needs are met, there is an extension of that goodness outside of ourselves that helps us to connect to something larger and beyond. This expanded awareness of gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness, positive emotions, improved health, and stronger relationships.
Gratitude is a daily focus in our family. I share my morning meditation with my kids, bringing hands together palm to palm or to rest on our upper chests, we take three deep breaths and state three things we are grateful for, aloud or in the silence of our hearts.
When we verbally express our gratitude, it is a recognition that you see, hear and value someone or something. It's a way to honor an interaction, connection, or validate an experience.
There are many ways to express gratitude to ourselves and others. Wishing someone well, saying thank you, sending a hand written note or email, and recognizing an opportunity to verbally express appreciation for a moment of connection can have a serious impact on someone's life for the better.
My younger son is creating a gratitude journal for school and sharing his thoughts about our current living conditions during this pandemic. Our discussions about what we are grateful for now are really the little things we took for granted before. We truly miss the simple things we live without now, daily meet-ups with friends and neighbors, after school play times, sports, and heartfelt conversation over a cup of tea or coffee. When both my kids were younger, we would write down a few things we were grateful for and place them in a jar to read aloud at special times. We still have the jar, and we still write down what we are grateful for, which in turn have shaped our hopes and wishes for the future.
When we endeavor to connect gratefully with others, we open ourselves to what it means to be fully human. Embracing our vulnerability in the need to interact with others honors the profound opportunity we have to share the experience of being alive, together, in this world.
It is my sincere hope that we can all interact safely and meaningfully while giving thanks this year.
Connections & Gratitude
I've added a short practice of moving, breathing and meditating to boost our immune systems and our feel good hormones. This slow flow utilizes breath centering to connect with gratitude and mindful movements.
This practice is dedicated to those that help and serve others.
A donation has been made to World Central Kitchen, an organization that creates smart solutions to hunger and poverty. World Central Kitchen are 'Food First Responders", they serve millions of meals each year and provide disaster relief to those in need. They provide training programs, strengthen economies and empower communities all over the world. Consider donating to their amazing efforts this week.