MILWAUKEE, Wisc. – When the pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621, they spent three days feasting and celebrating a good harvest that would sustain them through the winter. The pilgrims didn’t know it, but they were on to something. Scientific studies show that giving thanks is good for your health, too! People who give thanks regularly sleep longer, exercise more, report a drop in blood pressure, and have lower risks of several disorders, including depression, phobias, bulimia, and alcoholism.
Members of TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, know that adopting healthy attitudes is an important part of everyone’s self-care plan. The organization encourages its members to live a healthy lifestyle, including mind, body, and spirit.
One movement and philosophy oriented toward an Attitude of Gratitude focuses on finding value and contentment in what you have. Patricia M. Amborn, M.S.M., educator, wellness author, and motivational expert for TOPS, works to employ tactics of gratitude in her everyday life and offers suggestions on how others can achieve it.
“When you believe you have all you need, you are naturally happy,” Amborn said. “There is physiological evidence that when one is happy, the body produces more dopamine, a natural chemical in your body that enhances well-being.”
Dopamine is commonly associated with the pleasure system of the brain, providing feelings of enjoyment and reinforcement. Dopamine is released naturally by rewarding situations.
Amborn uses a quotation from author and inspirational speaker Dr. Ken Blanchard as a focus for her personal attitude of gratitude. “Blanchard’s quote, ‘Your mind believes what you tell it,’ is a good place to start in forming your gratefulness,” she said. “If you tell yourself you have all you need, you will believe you are happy!”
“Giving thanks for what you have is how to start with an attitude of gratitude,” Amborn said. “We always have a choice to be grateful and the simplest things – smelling, touching, seeing, hearing – are all blessings.”
Amborn offers these steps to achieving an Attitude of Gratitude:
- Start each day by reflecting on your blessings and visualize them.
- Carry a notebook and write down the things you are grateful for and review that list several times a day.
- Listen to your words and thoughts, paying attention to the amount of complaining you may do. Make a positive effort to stop complaining and a deliberate attempt to, instead, focus on your blessings.
- Identify how adversity or difficulty in your life resulted in a blessing.
- Compliment others daily.
- Think of others you can help by donating your time or resources on a regular basis.
- Read your favorite quotes that remind you of how fortunate you are.
- Ask others what they are grateful for.
- End your day by counting your blessings.
- Check your progress throughout the day and focus on your gratefulness to boost your energy.
- Practice forgiveness.
According to Amborn, the main focus of an Attitude of Gratitude is the understanding that every day is a gift. “The attitude can be achieved when one pursues what matters most – a quality life.”
“Every experience we have molds us,” she said. “Choices come with consequences. But we have control over how those consequences affect us and who we become.”
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