Grandma was always frazzled at Thanksgiving.
Maybe frazzled’s the wrong word.
Frenzied. Worked up.
She’d whirl around the kitchen like a huffy-puffy tornado, pulling this, stirring that, blindly shoving dishes in the hands of whoever was brave enough to offer help.
“GOOD NIGHT!” she’d explode, in one high-pitched growl, “this turkey is NEVER going to be done in time!” And she’d swing around with mitten-covered hands, while we all ducked – literally and emotionally – to avoid her wrath.
Nothing would comfort her. Nothing, not even a glass of wine, would calm her mania. Everything had to be perfect, or … or something. I wasn’t ever sure. But it was something bad.
And then, with the table set to perfection, with the food in front of us teasing the hunger from the murky depths of our stomachs, my grandfather would say grace. I would watch her, then, during the grace. It was magnificent.
A Thanksgiving miracle.
Her pursed lips of worry and concern would soften, her eyes would turn up a bit in a small smile, while her body sank into the chair in relief. Relief … and gratitude.
After that, she would engage everyone lightly and happily – asking questions and laughing at the kids. An entirely different woman, my grandmother was, after grandpa’s 10-minute Thanksgiving prayer.
Gratitude, HeartMath and Blessed Sanity
Several years ago, I had an opportunity to try out this funky little contraption called the HeartMath emWave. It’s an electronic device that literally measures the amount of gratitude or appreciation you’re feeling at any given moment – through the minuscule variations in your heart rhythm and rate.
It’s pretty freaky, really. I sat, alone, in my friend’s study and worked with the device for at least an hour, trying out every thought and emotion connection I could think of. For the record, thinking about a dirty martini or Hugh Jackman naked produced the same results. I think we can conclude, scientifically, that naked Hugh Jackman’s a contributor to alcoholism. Someone alert the National Institute of Health.
In any case, it really did work. When I was frustrated, the little light would turn red … and when I was grateful it would go green. Sometimes it took a few seconds to get it into the green range, but it happened every time.
So what this does, then, this emWave, is it helps you train yourself to stay in a state of gratitude for as long as you can. It also helps you recognize when you’re in that state, which makes it easier to get there quicker.
The point is that when we’re in a state of gratitude or appreciation, the coherence in our body – physically and emotionally – is greater. When we’re angry, frustrated, or whatever negative emotion you want to choose (pissed that your cat fell in the toilet and then jumped on the bed), our body, brain, and emotions are in a state of disharmony.
My grandmother is a perfect example of these two completely dichotomous states. She could go from one to the other in the time it took to scootch her chair up to the table.
Why Thanksgiving is Good For You … Despite the Gravy
The HeartMath Institute has conducted (and scoured over) scads of studies all based around gratitude and the goodness it does for your body, mind, and soul.
They’ve come up with some pretty amazing conclusions, and seriously – despite my skepticism – I’m inclined to believe it all. Mainly because I have subjective, personal proof that putting myself into a state of gratitude does wonders for my health and energy levels, my outlook on life, and even the expressions my face holds.
Yes. I’m saying being grateful makes me prettier.
But enough about me. Here’s what HeartMath says maintaining a state of gratitude (for however long you can) and practicing it regularly can do for you:
- It helps keep your hormones in balance, and even triggers an increase in production of DHEA (otherwise known as the “anti-aging hormone”)
- It can help balance your moods – regularly – by encouraging learned positivity
- It boosts your immune system
- With continued practice, you teach yourself how to quickly and easily get into a state of appreciation, thereby fending off any impending stress or anxiety
I’d wager a bet that we could come up with a huge list of other benefits practicing gratitude brings. Sure, they won’t be all hoity-toity scientific, but I’m sure it’d be hard to argue them. Things like:
- It decreases the likelihood that you’ll lock your kids and husband in the closet while you smash your good china on the kitchen floor
- It increases the pleasure you get out of going out for drinks with friends, because you’re too busy being happy to be envious of the 22-year-old girl with the short skirt and amazing cleavage at the bar
- It keeps you from burning your bed to ashes after the toilet-water cat jumps on it (yes, my cat just fell in the toilet …) (My bed, however, remains unburned. See how this works?)
Anyway, you get the gist.
There are so many good, healthy things that come from feeling gratitude. And we have an entire holiday devoted to just that. How lucky are we?
Do This Exercise With Me
Right now, if you have a spare moment, indulge me. This won’t take but three minutes.
- Close your eyes (but read this all first, so you don’t have to open them back up).
- Take a deep breath in and smile. Now breathe out, still smiling. Do this three times.
- Now, think of something or someone you’re grateful for. Something/someone deep and pure, something that causes only feelings of love, not stress. Let that thought travel through your smile and into your heart.
- Hold this thought – this grateful, heart-filling thought, for an entire minute, smiling the entire time.
- Open your eyes and say “thank you” silently.
If you feel like it, you can extend this thought – make it even more real and concrete and lasting – by leaving a comment about what you were so very grateful for.
Personally, it seems like writing out and sharing the things I’m thankful for make them “stick” in my heart much longer than just thinking them.
For what it’s worth – when I just did the exercise? I thought about you.
About all of you reading this, and hopefully remembering it long after the turkey’s nothing but a broken wishbone on a windowsill. About you guys remembering to be grateful even through Christmas shopping.
Also, I thought about Hugh Jackman naked.
Old habits die hard.
And even though I have one more post planned before Thanksgiving: Happy Thanksgiving, anyway, Crunchy Beauties!