Years ago, I was thinking about a professor I had while studying for my doctorate. His name was Gale Lewellan, and he was a professor of Neuroanatomy. He was one of my all-time favorite professors. Ten years after graduating, I decided to call him and thank him. To my surprise, he answered his office phone. I introduced myself and told him how impactful his class was and told him how grateful I was for his passion and dedication and that it was he that really got me excited about the power of the brain, the spinal cord, and the nervous system. There was a long pause on the other end of the phone after saying those things, then he spoke. In a soft tone, choked up, sounding as if he was trying to hold back tears, he told me he couldn’t believe how nice it was that I called to tell him that. He said that it was his last day, he had packed up all of his stuff, and was standing in the doorway looking back in to his office about to turn off the lights, wondering if he had made the impact that he had hoped to in his thirty-three years of teaching. That’s when the phone rang. He told me that my phone call meant so much to him, that it was one of the greatest moments he had had as a professor, and that it was a perfect ending to his career.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that is loved by many. There is a lot of appeal to this day of celebration… a couple extra days off work, gathering together with friends and family, delicious food (and too much of it!), and it doesn’t involve the stress of finding, purchasing, and exchanging gifts. And, while this one will surely be different as most are not gathering in large groups, and the world appears to be in turmoil, it can still be a day to give thanks.
I hope that you take time on this day and reflect on all the great things in your life. While being grateful just simply makes sense, it is very powerful and comes with added benefits you probably did not know.
I would hope it wouldn’t take a study to convince you of the importance being grateful and the impact it can have, but studies have shown that keeping a gratitude journal caused people to report fewer physical symptoms, less physical pain, and improved the amount and quality of sleep. Regular use of a gratitude journal lowers depressive symptoms and improves vitality and energy. Even expressing thankfulness just once a week showed a decrease in blood pressure.
One tip that is usually included at the end of any presentation I give is to be more grateful. More specifically, I encourage gratitude exercise. This involves taking just a minute or two each day to think about three things that you are grateful for. To make this exercise even more powerful, you could keep a gratitude journal and write down three things each day that you are thankful for. It is a phenomenal way to start or end each day.
You can simply think of three things you are grateful for each day, keep a gratitude journal and write them down each day, or take it to the next level and actually send a note or make a call expressing your gratitude to others. This next level gratitude exercise will likely have the biggest impact on you and has the added benefit of impacting others. The call to my professor is something neither he nor I would ever forget. Why wouldn’t you make a call or send a note to someone that has had an impact on your life?
We have so, so, so much to be thankful for, don’t we? You will not find any wellness initiative that is as simple, quick, and powerful as listing three things you are grateful for each day. Oh… and it’s free!
So, let’s express thanks this week in celebration of Thanksgiving, but let’s not limit this thankfulness to just one day each year. We can’t measure the impact of being more grateful, but it will be bigger than you can imagine. Be grateful!