You don't have to hide behind a sign...
(Simon Maage on Upsplash)
This is your busiest time of year.
How many services are you supposed to pull off between now and December 25? Only twelve? What, are you some kind of slacker?! Get those bulletins looking just right. Make sure the choirs and soloists will be ready. Are the candles (the candles!) ready?
To top it off, you must keep your own house in order. Little kids, a spouse, or friends? The presents must be bought. Cards? They still mean something so send them out. Baking cookies? You have to maintain your stamina…those cookies are key. Cutting down a tree? Well maybe going to a lot this year will have to do. And keeping your eye on the Star in the east? Well that sometimes feels like the most distant of all.
Amidst all the busy-ness of the season – it’s important not only to keep your eye on the Star, but also on one thing science says will make you feel happier: gratitude. A friend recently forwarded an article that said, “Regularly expressing gratitude literally changes the molecular structure of the brain.”
The article goes on to report on a “gratitude study” out of UC Davis and the University of Miami. In the study people were given one of three weekly writing assignments for their journal:
- What you are grateful for?
- What’s hassling you?
- Write about whatever you’d like to write about.
“After ten weeks, the participants in the gratitude group felt 25% better than the other groups, and had exercised an average of 1.5 hours more.” Bonus: Feeling grateful means losing weight (OK, that’s a stretch – but if it gets you to express gratitude…).
In another study, Chinese researchers looked at the amount of gratitude people showed in their daily lives. They found that “higher levels of gratitude were associated with better sleep, and with lower levels of anxiety and depression.” Bonus: Feeling grateful means an improved night’s sleep.
Being grateful may sound easy, but it takes and is a practice. Here are some quick ideas on incorporating gratefulness into your life:
1. Keep a gratitude journal. Write down three things every day that make you thankful (or start out weekly with the goal of increasing how often you write).
2. Stock up on notecards. Stop and think, “Who can I thank?” Write down a three-sentence message right then and there and send it off.
3. Verbally say, “Thank you” or “You’re terrific” or “I appreciate all that you do.” You’ll feel better (remember, it’s science) and the person on the receiving end will too.
So keep your brain growing and recharging itself by expressing healthy doses of gratitude. Pay heed to these words of William A. Ward, a good Methodist,
God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say, “thank you”?
Keep your eye on the Star and express gratitude in response…you’ve got this busy-ness thing covered.