Did you know that Thanksgiving Day in Canada has been a holiday on the second Monday of October since 1957? It is a chance for people to give thanks for a good harvest and other fortunes in the past year. My colleague Wendy Margolese writes on this topic of how expressing gratitude can lead to better health.Continue Reading
by Don Ingwerson
Years ago, while leading students on a nine-week bicycle trip through Europe, my wife and I happened to stay one night in Copenhagen, Denmark. That evening we had an amazing opportunity to see unselfish giving at its best.Continue Reading
by Don Ingwerson
“Me heart broken,” my 3-year-old grandson said with tears in his eyes as he hugged his mother. This after he had gotten a little too rough in playing and had accidentally hurt her. Her physical hurt immediately drew a reaction from him – a reaction of sympathy, sorrow, and seeking forgiveness.Continue Reading
A gratitude-based approach to healthcare has its rewards and my colleague Eric Nelson experienced the benefits it brings when he was trekking through the Himalayan Mountains. Even though the mountains in Southern California aren’t nearly as rigorous, Eric’s message is just as pertinent. I’m sharing an excerpt, and there’s a link below to the full article.
As far as I know, my wife and I had already purchased our tickets to Nepal before grasping entirely what we’d committed to: an 18-day trek through the Himalayas including an ascent up Thorung La – at 5416 meters (17,769 feet), one of the world’s highest mountain passes.
Sure, we had experience hiking to the top of some pretty big hills. But even our one-day trot to the top of California’s Mt. Whitney – the tallest peak in the Lower 48 – couldn’t compare to what was in store for us.
The first few days of the trek were just about as carefree as they come as our small group of adventurers (7 clients, 7 porters, and 2 guides) slowly but surely made our way through the balmy jungles, alpine forests, and hillside rice paddies of the Marsyangdi River valley. However, the closer we came to Thorung La, the more aware I was of the potential health risks involved with high altitude trekking.
To read the rest of the Eric’s article originally titled “Giving Thanks Lifts Mind and Body Over Himalayan Pass” click on this link for Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com.
You can also find him at www.norcalcs.org.
by Don Ingwerson
Now that Christmas is over, I’ve been thinking about how giving and happiness relate. Not so long ago our family decided to adopt a family in need during the holiday season. It took a while to find a community agency that had a list of needy families, but with persistence we got the name of a family and the names and ages of the children. Christmas Eve we took our gifts to our adopted family.
They spoke little English and we spoke little Spanish, so communication was more felt than spoken. After we presented our gifts and visited for a while we prepared to leave, but this family invited us to join them in a community dinner around an outside fire pit. Sharing in that dinner, I felt that we had received more than we had given, and I deeply felt the good for my fellow man. Each Christmas, I find my thought returning to the family we shared Christmas with that evening. Yet, there have been other times when giving didn’t result in the same sense of satisfaction or happiness, and I wondered why.
This past week I reviewed an abstract of a study on the subject of giving and I was a little surprised by what it said. For instance, the evidence “only weakly supported the idea” that helping others leads to higher levels of happiness for the one giving. It went on to say that when you combine happiness and giving, the data show that happier people give more, and giving makes happy people happier. The research showed that after experiencing a positive event of receiving something, those receiving it were happier and more likely to help others, and those who felt good continued to be more helpful to others. (Isen and Levin, 1972)
This study about giving raises some interesting points. For instance, to give just because it seems the right thing to do, or to satisfy someone’s expectations does not increase the giver’s happiness. But when you combine an existing happy attitude with giving, the giver’s happiness is increased. (This seems to work in a circular motion. A happy person is inclined to give more and a happy person tends to have better health. But to give to achieve happiness or healthy does not seem to work.)
Another important aspect of giving is how the giver is rewarded. This study indicated that to reward the giver with extrinsic rewards might affect his altruistic feelings and actually reduce giving long term. We get a glimpse of why intrinsic rewards for giving tend to support long term giving in a study by Professor Emmons, U.C. Davis Psychologist and Editor in Chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology. He has found that “those who are grateful and express gratitude improved their happiness score by 25%.”
Since being grateful improves one’s happiness, these same qualities reportedly have a positive effect on one’s health.
I’ve thought a lot about why someone would feel like giving or helping and at other times would not feel like giving, even though the cause involved is thought to be important. According to David Aderman (1972) only those individuals with a positive mood are more likely to help others, and this upbeat mood increases altruism, feelings of competence, and volunteerism.
For myself, I found that giving to the family in need was of personal importance and not just an activity. Because this activity stirred my innermost feelings, it made me happier and my mood was more positive. My happiness with what I was doing had a positive effect on me and on my sense of health. But each act of giving must stir your innermost feelings if giving is to be meaningful and health giving.
Article first published in Blogcritics and previously published January 12, 2012.
A guest post written by Donna Clifton from Whittier, California.
“Christmas is all about getting exactly what you want!”
Believe it or not, those were the actual words in a radio advertisement I heard, and they dismayed me. Although the normal mantra is that Christmas is about giving, not getting, this sentiment is belied by the questions we often hear right after Christmas: “What did you get?” “Was Santa good to you this year?”
The desire to get what we want is natural, but to make that the focus of Christmas obliterates the real meaning of Christmas. We protest that we know it’s all about giving. Unfortunately this kind of giving mainly means shopping, shopping, shopping.
Traditional Christmas gift giving probably won’t change any time soon, but what if we make a more concerted effort to shift the focus back to the true purpose of celebrating Christmas – the birth of Christ in this world? What if we did that instead of making Christmas mainly about giving gifts to each other? What if We Celebrate the True Meaning of Christmas?
One thing my family has done to minimize the gift giving is to have a “secret Santa” exchange of gifts. Rather than everyone buying a gift for every member of the family, we each draw a name and then only get that one person a gift. Even children can participate in this type of giving. This has helped our family focus less on the material aspect of Christmas and more on the spiritual message.
And this spiritual message – the true spirit of Christmas – is to thank God for giving us Christ Jesus. This kind of gratitude is best expressed in deeds, not words – and also leads to a healthier outlook on life.
19th-century health researcher and theologian, Mary Baker Eddy, writes in Science & Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Action expresses more gratitude than speech.” She goes on to say: “What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds. To keep the commandments of our Master and follow his example, is our proper debt to him and the only worthy evidence of our gratitude for all that he has done.”
This Christmas season I have been thanking God for all the good in my life, especially the healings I’ve experienced through reliance on God. I believe God gives us everything we really need – such as His ever present, all-encompassing love. Isn’t that much more meaningful than a new red sweater, a DVD, or an iPad?
I am not just thanking God with words but am striving to express gratitude with unselfish deeds and a more patient, understanding heart. The giving of loving kindness to each other is the most meaningful gift of all. And giving gratitude to God for Christ Jesus is expressing the real spirit of Christmas.
A guest post written by Carol McFall from San Luis Obispo, California.
Real gratitude is powerful.
I’m not talking about a Band-Aid to make us feel a little better, or a way to sweep problems under the rug. Gratitude doesn’t just nudge us in the right direction — it is the right direction. You might say it is a mental standpoint we can move to — and we’d better get going because where we stand mentally impacts the quality of life and of health.
Here in San Luis Obispo, we have this unique geographical feature of seven Morros — volcanic mountains — marching in a row through the town and into the Pacific Ocean at Morro Bay. One of our favorites to climb is Bishop Peak, right on the edge of town. From the street, you see the mountain looming above. The path up is strenuous, but as you climb, you get a much different view. Halfway up, where the meadows break and the trees and big rocks take over, is a lovely little oak grove providing a shady place to sit, catch your breath, and enjoy a little picnic (if you’ve been so clever as to bring one).
But keep on climbing, and as you get to the top, you get a far broader perspective. You see the outcome of geologic forces in the other Morros stretching out in front of you. You see the Pacific Ocean in the distance, and on a really clear day, you can see the curvature of Earth. The higher you go, the more you see.
Gratitude offers a similar perspective. The higher we go in thought — in filling our hearts and our consciousness with love and thankfulness — the more we get to see and experience that abundance. This impacts our lives and the lives of others as we figure out how to share this good. It’s an expansive standpoint, rather like sitting on top of Bishop Peak.
The personal health benefits of a grateful heart and a positive standpoint are now quite widely recognized. It doesn’t stop with oneself, however. The founder of my church, Mary Baker Eddy, put it this way: Gratitude is much more than a verbal expression of thanks. Action expresses more gratitude than speech.
This holiday season, thank God with all your heart for all blessings! Acknowledge what is good wherever it is found.
Article first published in the San Luis Obispo Tribune.
A guest post written by Diana Colarossi from San Juan Capistrano, California.
Is Thanksgiving, a day, a holiday, or a state of mind? Does it matter if we celebrate Thanksgiving among friends, family, or alone?
Thanksgiving isn’t a day. It’s a state of mind giving gratitude to God. Thanks to God shouldn’t be confined to one special day of the year. Nor is it a time that must be spent with people, for joy can also be found in the quiet solitude of God’s presence.
Gratitude isn’t for what we had or have in human things, but to and for the provider of these things, God. God, in the goodness of His love, provides spiritually every idea, and the fruition of it. Therefore, while we are being grateful for the appearance of good in our lives, and this is important, the real denominator is the presence of God. Because God’s presence is universal, we can all be grateful.
Today, and everyday, let every heart unify in gratitude for not only everything we see here on earth that is good, waves in the ocean, blue sky and sun, for smiles from vibrant flowers, glorious creatures of God, for the very basic love of existence, and every perfect thought, but also for the cause and source of this goodness, God. Mary Baker Eddy, a nineteenth century Bible scholar, states these memorable words, “Gratitude and love should abide in every heart each day of all the years.”
This Thanksgiving isn’t a day; it’s a thankful heart, which is full every moment. Come let’s celebrate a day of thanks for His presence!
Article previously published November 22, 2012.
Autumn may be a more subtle season in Southern California than in other parts of the world, but the spirit of Thanksgiving is universal – and beneficial. My friend and colleague Glenn Laycock from Manitoba, Canada gives a thoughtful review of the article “In Praise of Gratitude” published by the Harvard Medical School.
Thanksgiving … celebrates the closeout of the growing season(s) and is the traditional time when people pause to celebrate the harvest with gratitude for having received all they need to survive the winter months, and to look forward to the coming spring.
There is plenty of research on the benefits of gratitude. Harvard Medical School, for example, published an article called, “In Praise of Gratitude.” It shows that gratitude helps us to adjust our perception to look beyond ourselves – to see the opportunities and events around us that we are often so used to, we don’t recognize them as positives. We have put them outside our conscious recognition. The article went on to say:
“The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness, as a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power”. —In Praise of Gratitude –
This connection is perhaps something we recognize in our celebrations at the dinner table. But while there is an obvious “feel good” that comes from connecting in this way, I wonder if there is far more to this timely motivational pick-me-up that could be more lasting. So my three questions this Thanksgiving are:
Does gratitude improve health not only in the short term, but also in a more permanent way?
Does gratitude effect people’s perceptions? And if so, how and to what effect?
How does it help me feel more connected?
Regarding improved health outcomes, the Greater Good Science Society from the University of California published its findings in a post, “Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude.” Some of the benefits researchers are finding include an improved immune system, a more positive emotional state, a more giving attitude, and the feeling of community.
I understand the feeling of community being changed by cultivating a sense of gratitude. I went through times of great happiness and wanted to share this with others, but this was counter balanced with the exact opposite, where I would be angry, sad, resentful, and even selfish. I found that poor health was often a result of negativity – you think “down” and you feel down and under the weather.
I finally realized I had to base my life and stability on something that was unchanging and provable. To actively realize that my relationship with God was something to be grateful for – and this being the way it is “day in and day out” seemed a good place to begin. Once I started noting all the things to be grateful for and seeing how God’s love was the source – not myself – it turned my awareness into permanent behaviors and actions, and improved health.
Being attuned to God’s perfection, taking note of and interacting with this goodness is perhaps a hint of why gratitude makes me feel more connected or “in tune” with God’s goodness and opportunities.
Like the study showed, I became much more positive and that was reflected in being healthier and indeed responsive to the opportunities around me.
This leads into a second question. Looking for gratitude is important. 19th century Christian healer and health researcher Mary Baker Eddy asks, “Are we really grateful for what we have already received?”
Once we perceive and acknowledge things to be grateful for – what does that do?
Cultivating gratitude has opened my thought to opportunities that would have been previously invisible to me. In business I have had it happen time and again – where a solution to a problem became resolved this way.
I had an example of this, when I was working weekends at a bank. Working often alone I literally had too many clients, to serve effectively. Beginning with prayer, I knew activity was a “good problem” and I just needed become aware of the solution. Gratitude started my thought process – thanks for “quiet weekends” being no longer quiet anymore, but full of potential and activity.
As John Milton, a 17th century poet once said, “Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we view the world.”
As I prayed about it, what suddenly seemed an “obvious solution” got my attention and it lead to a much more efficient way to serve all my customers needs; and more than doubled the business I could process in a day.
Gratitude is a life style choice. It does not need to be confined to a once a year event when we alter our usual behavior patterns for a “one off” Thanksgiving celebration and sense of family connection. It is far more lasting and durable then positive “glass half full” thinking, because it inspires better long term behavior and brings that sense of spiritual connectedness that can change how we see and experience life. It gives us wisdom and courage in difficulties. It takes our focus away from the negative, and leaves us noticing the goodness. Then new opportunities become abundantly clear.
Link to Canada’s blog
A guest post written by B. B. Prest from San Diego, California.
Ready for that turkey dinner this year? And what about giving thanks – will that be on the menu? For many of us it will be. But for others, it may not.
In thinking about giving thanks, I am reminded of the Biblical account from Luke about the ten lepers who were healed, and Christ Jesus’ question to the one (a Samaritan) who returned to give thanks, “Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?”
How sad it would be to be counted as one of the “nine” who never returned to give thanks. Let’s face it; this is Christ Jesus we’re talking about.
This passage ties healing to faith and gratitude, according to J. R. Dummelow’s Bible Commentary. Christ Jesus never speaks of healing, but instructs the lepers to “go show themselves to the priests.” Their obedience and faith become instrumental to their healing. And although the nine did not return, I’m sure they were grateful that they were healed. But the Samaritan’s gratitude seemed to exceed that of the others. He took action. He returned. Not just to give thanks to Christ Jesus, but to acknowledge God.
It’s no coincidence that in the next passage the Pharisees question when the Kingdom of God should come. Jesus answers that it does not come with observation, neither “here” nor “there,” but is “within you;” that the Kingdom of God is a spiritual power and source of good already at work in our lives, not simply a physical location, object, or circumstance.
Celebrating Thanksgiving before Christmas and New Year’s seems so fitting and parallels this account and its surrounding passages. It reminds us that faith and gratitude to God can result in blessings and new beginnings in our lives. A faith that can realize the impossible, and gratitude that recognizes the good already present within us, based on our spiritual relationship to God as His expression.
Mary Baker Eddy speaks of this in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “Are we really grateful for the good already received? Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more.” And on November 29, 1900, when asked by the Boston Globe for a sentiment as to what Thanksgiving should signify, Eddy replied that “divine Love, impartial and universal, as understood in divine Science, forms the coincidence of the human and divine, which fulfils the saying of our great Master, ‘The kingdom of God is within you;’”
So this holiday season, before we open that holiday gift or draft up our New Year’s resolutions, let’s first give gratitude for and have faith in God’s ever-present source of goodness and grace already in our lives, our families’ lives, our communities, and our country. Not only will we have a fulfilling Thanksgiving, but we’ll also experience the true meaning of giving and receiving this Christmas, and realize a spiritual sense of renewal for the coming New Year.
Now that’s something to give thanks about. Happy thanks giving!
Article previously published November 20, 2012