Our Canadian neighbors celebrate Thanksgiving this year on Monday, October 14th. Their holiday was designated in 1957 to give thanks for the bountiful harvest of the year.
As the holiday season approaches for us all, we are showered with invitations to celebrate, enjoy time with our families, and be grateful for the blessings of life. But few of us pause to ask—what is gratitude? Perhaps it’s simply taking a breath to appreciate the moment. Or maybe we should look up and acknowledge the astronomical complexity of nature that allows us to stand sure-footed on the surface of a planet spinning thousands of miles an hour, a blue haven in the vacuum of space.
Whatever gratitude means to you, there is no doubt that an attitude of gratitude gives us clearer eyes to see the people around us and the extraordinary, beautiful world that we share. No doubt it feels good to receive gratitude and be appreciated by those we love, but the simple practice of giving thanks may give back even more to us. Scientists have only begun to explore the possibilities of how gratitude affects our bodies and our health, and the research is fascinating.
A detailed article in USC Berkley’s “Greater Good Magazine[i]” discussed several recent studies on gratitude and heart conditions, muscle pain, and general physical wellbeing. While the evidence is still mixed in these areas, research shows that gratitude may have a direct effect on sleep.
According to a study by the University of Manchester’s School of Psychology[ii]:
“Gratitude predicted greater subjective sleep quality and sleep duration, and less sleep latency [time to fall asleep] and daytime dysfunction.”
A second study[iii] found that two weeks of keeping a regular gratitude journal resulted in i “…increases in hedonic well-being, optimism and sleep quality along with decreases in diastolic blood pressure.”
They went on to suggest that such positive thinking may be restorative to our overall health, and even reduce mortality. While research is still pending on exactly how our thoughts may affect our health, it seems giving thanks may grant wellbeing in return.
So let’s join our neighbors to the North in the spirit of the season by giving thanks for our own abundance of food and the farmers who grow our fruits and vegetables and grains. Maybe that one act of gratitude, as the research supports, will help you sleep a little better tonight.
Happy Thanksgiving, Canada! May we all be grateful and sleep well.
[i] Allen, Summer. “Is Gratitude Good for Your Health?” Greater Good Magazine, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/is_gratitude_good_for_your_health Accessed September 18, 2019.
[ii] Wood AM, Joseph S, Lloyd J, Atkins S. (2009). “Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions.” [Abstract]. NCBI, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19073292. Accessed September 18, 2019.
[iii] Jackowska M, Brown J, Ronaldson A, Steptoe A. (2016) “The impact of a brief gratitude intervention on subjective well-being, biology and sleep.” [Abstract]. NCBI, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25736389. Accessed September 18, 2019.