The Thanksgiving holiday is over and our Christmas tree is up. Christmas carols are playing on the radio and our first Christmas “event” is Saturday – two in fact. Life just keeps moving. This happy season is hard for some. It is different for me this year, but then last year was different too. Mom was in a nursing home Alzheimer’s unit. Dad came over with my in-laws to my husband’s family celebration for Thanksgiving. This year Mom is in heaven, our son is single again and I’m working full-time for awhile due to staffing shortages. My life is simple and VERY good compared to many but it’s still my life and sometimes my emotions get all wound up inside. When they do some things seem “bigger than life” because they just keep going around and around in my head. The other thing that happens is I get tired. That also has a tendency to lead me to exaggerated emotions. Yesterday at the clinic I talked to my first holiday depressed patient. There will be more.
There are two simple things that can help with the blues and fatigue, exercise and thankfulness. Is that what you expected me to say? Most people know that exercise increases seratonin and dopamine in our system and thus elevates our mood for some time after we exercise. It also increases our blood flow/oxygen levels to the brain which allows us to think more clearly. But what about thankfulness? Well an article put out by ABC news in 2011 says this:
Grateful? Write it down. Think about it. Talk about it. ‘Tis the season of thanking, and not only will you spread those positive vibrations to those around you, your health will benefit, too.
For those who tend to be more Grinch-ish than grateful, there’s some hard evidence that might make you want to turn that frown upside down. A positive outlook and feelings of thankfulness can have a direct and beneficial effect on the brain and body.
“If [thankfulness] were a drug, it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system,” said Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, head of the division of biologic psychology at Duke University Medical Center.
While the act of being thankful is not a substitute for a proper medical diagnosis and treatment, Doraiswamy said it’s certainly a strategy that can be used to enhance wellness.
Studies have shown measurable effects on multiple body and brain systems, said Doraiswamy. Those include mood neurotransmitters (serotonin, norepinephrine), reproductive hormones (testosterone), social bonding hormones (oxytocin), cognitive and pleasure related neurotransmitters (dopamine), inflammatory and immune systems (cytokines), stress hormones (cortisol), cardiac and EEG rhythms, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
To read the entire article go here: The Science of Thankfulness
Last year at Christmas I gave our kids each a mason type jar with a label on it marked “give thanks” tied to it. In it were blank pieces of paper as well as some that had starters like, “________________ always makes me smile.” We were to write down things we were thankful for and this Thanksgiving we shared some of our thankful thoughts with each other. The great thing about this is remembering things that happened months ago. Some of our things were more “significant” than others – the “size” of the thought doesn’t matter. The point is to be grateful. It can change your whole outlook. The jar idea came from a blog post written by Anne Voskamp. If you haven’t read her book “One Thousand Gifts” yet you are one of only a few who have not. You can find it at her website along with more information about being thankful and how it can change your life. It dramatically changed hers and many, many others. You can learn more about Anne and her “Joy Dare” here: Anne Voskamp
I was happy when our kids suggested we use our thankful jars again this year. Do you want to join us? A simple jar or box or envelope will do. You can decorate it if you like. The main thing is to gather some slips of paper and a pencil or pen and have it handy so it’s easy to add something when you think of it. Let us know if you’d like to join in on the fun and get to feeling better too.