Thanksgiving and the role of gratitude in your health

Gratitude Changes Everything

Martin Frobisher was an English seafarer, famous for his search for the Northwest Passage in the sixteenth century. He made it as far as Baffin Island, where the present-day Frobisher Bay commemorates his voyages. When he landed, he held a “thanksgiving” feast in gratitude for survival of the perilous journey.

It’s the earliest likeness to the Thanksgiving we celebrate in North America. Today, Canada’s formal day of Thanksgiving is observed on the second Monday of October. (As it has been since the proclamation by Governor General Vincent Massey in 1957.)

This Thanksgiving Day, Monday, October 12th, probably has more relevance than any in recent memory. The events of 2020 have been punctuated with doom and gloom, but they can still be a catalyst for gratitude. And gratitude has therapeutic effects for our mental and physical health that are only just beginning to be understood.

According to the website positivepsychology.com, mental health researchers have established a strong connection between gratitude and good health. Something as simple as a daily “gratitude journal” has been found to decrease stress, improve the quality of sleep, and build emotional awareness.

The feeling of gratitude stimulates chemical reactions in the brain that have implications for all aspects of our health. Some studies suggest that when gratitude is part of a daily routine, the positive health effects can rival that of some medications.

Expressing and receiving gratitude causes the brain to release dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters make us feel good. Gratitude is positively correlated to more vitality, energy, and enthusiasm to work harder. (Enthusiasm is one of Prospect’s brand values!) The Mindfulness Awareness Research Center of UCLA has found that gratitude changes the neural structures in the brain, making us feel happier and more content.

So in this year of unprecedented pessimism, what is there to be thankful for?

You can start your gratitude journal every morning with the fact that you woke up. As an Albertan, odds are you probably have safe access to some of the best water in the world. If you have adversity in your life, take heart in knowing it will most likely make you stronger. Be grateful for a friend (and tell them, because that will stimulate good neural reactions for both of you). You can read, so be grateful for Canada’s literacy rate and the opportunity for more education. Alberta’s libraries are welcoming places worthy of gratitude. Family, no matter how dysfunctional it occasionally gets, is worthy of gratitude. As are music and medicine.

Within our organization, Prospect’s people are placing more candidates into jobs than prior to the pandemic. Canada’s political climate is moderate and sensible. And Alberta’s Premier announced last week that the coming harvest is likely to be one of the best on record.

Opportunities for gratitude are out there. And as we go into this Thanksgiving weekend, we would like to express our gratitude to everyone who makes our work possible.