Thanksgiving as a Wellness Practice
Celebrations of a day of thanks are common around the world. Whether these observances mark an annual harvest, peace or something else, their underlying theme is appreciation and gratitude, sentiments that seem to be innate in human beings. And for good reason.
Research at the Institute of HeartMath (IHM) has found that sincere appreciation and gratitude, expressed naturally or intentionally, can have a transformative effect on both giver and receiver. Activating a positive feeling like appreciation is a very potent tonic for the body – it literally shifts your physiology, synchronizing your heart and brain rhythms, and creating a body-wide shift to a scientifically measurable state called coherence. In this optimal state, the body’s systems function more efficiently, generating a greater balance of emotions and increased mental clarity and brain function. Gratitude creates a healthier, happier and more fulfilling state of being.
When you’re the receiver of gratitude, your heart rhythm patterns show up in the brain waves in others around you – we literally pick up on each others’ vibes. Each heartbeat is putting out an electromagnetic wave that is 60 times stronger than a brain wave. HeartMath studies show this powerful electromagnetic field (EMF) can be detected and measured several feet away from a person’s body and between two individuals in close proximity. Think of the heart as a radio transmitter and its rhythm pattern the frequency signal: Others pick up thoughts and feelings that you’re broadcasting. The more we’re tuned to somebody, the easier it is to pick up on each other’s signals, unconsciously. When we’re feeling gratitude or appreciation, it can have an uplifting effect on others. When you feel it, they feel it. This resonance enhances the immune and endocrine systems and effects biochemistry, mind and spirit. It’s not mystical, it’s science.
When you’re the giver and your recipient offers a sincere thank you, you can feel the uplift that is the rush of positive hormones that release as a result. Your heart rhythm has shifted too and then your perspective widens as issues that were bothering you fade to the background.
In honor of Thanksgiving, here are some ways to work more gratitude into your life by anchoring it into your day:
Try HeartMath’s Quick Coherence® Technique. Create a coherent state in about a minute using three simple, but powerful steps. To really get the shift, your effort needs to be intentional and genuine. When you get to Step 3, using thoughts of gratitude to create a Heart Feeling is one of the easiest ways to make the shift. Think of your pet, a sunset, a time in nature, or a loved one. Feel genuine appreciation for them.
Take a few breaks during the day for gratitude, like on your way home from work and before going to sleep. It takes just two minutes and can have a huge effect on balancing your physiology.
Make a list of appreciations and, each morning and night, choose one or two things to keep in your heart. Keep your list by the computer or wherever you are during the day, and when you find yourself in a moment of stress, scan it and see which item evokes that feeling of appreciation for you quickly. It might only take 10-30 seconds and it can completely change a stressful day to one of even flow.
Take a problem in your life that you’re trying to resolve and find three things to appreciate about it. Ask your heart. One could be that it could be worse. Feel that genuinely. Consider that there may be a treasure underneath – an opportunity in the problem. When you do this, it widens your perspective and creates some coherence into your approach.
Steer clear of mentally churning about your stressors if you want to feel better fast because this takes you into your left-brain and thinking, which does not activate the magic of heart coherence, which sincere heart feeling does.
Thankfully, gratitude and appreciation can create their own positive psychophysiological holiday in your body — without the necessity of a feast. If you find yourself facing Thanksgiving stress this week, remember to bring appreciation into your thoughts and heart. This one small adjustment could make a really rich difference in your holiday joy. If you think about it, it’s the moments of gratitude that make life worth living anyway.
By Sara Childre and Deborah Rozman