It's crunch time. Your head is probably spinning with the splendid whiz and whir of holiday preparations as you stock every last corner of the refrigerator full of rich autumn foods or rush to shove that last pair of shoes into your suitcase before hitting the road. You may even find yourself inwardly dreading the stress of it all, or secretly grumbling about the big, dramatic production this bustling time of year brings. In such cases, this little recipe might be just what you need to turn the frantic holiday scene into a sparkling celebratory success. However, be warned: it may not be exactly what you expect...
On Monday, I was all set to write a post for a Thanksgiving recipe. I pulled on my favorite wooly socks, set about wrestling the pots and pans out of the cabinet and plunked my food processor proudly up on the counter. I got out my notebook and starting tapping the end of my pen on the empty page -- perhaps I could conjure up a creative grain-free take on stuffing or add a novel flair to the classic sweet cranberry sauce. And then, out of nowhere, I became woefully uninspired. Because really, when I started to think about it, the internet doesn’t need another Turkey Day recipe to add to the clamor. Instead what we all need, is a little bit more of the thing that this holiday is truly all about: gratitude.
Gratitude: The Secret Ingredient
The concepts of joy and warm thanks associated with gratitude are difficult to smoosh into a smiley face or emoticon. Thus, we often seem to forget about gratitude in our vocabulary of feeling and thought states. I scoured the internet for a definition of gratitude, and came up with only the dry, unsatisfactory answer of “an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has.” In practice however, I believe gratitude is far more than a wimpy demonstration of thanks. It involves a feeling of love, well-being and happiness that inspires the courage to demonstrate care and a readiness to return kindness. This element of reciprocation is what I find most genuinely powerful -- it moves us through the vulnerabilities of sharing our most heart-felt sentiments and allows us to embody a shared state of loving presence that can be difficult to access under other circumstances.
Gratitude, in all its simple wholesome goodness, has recently become a subject of much interest among psychologists and researchers. A growing collection of studies has demonstrated a significant link between gratitude generating practices and positive psychological, as well as physiological, outcomes.1,2
In recent research, cultivating gratitude has been linked to all of the following:
- sounder sleep
- increased energy
- stress relief
- less anxiety, depression and addiction
- higher long-term satisfaction with life
- kinder behavior towards others
- more optimistic outlook
A Last-Minute Recipe for Cultivating Gratitude
Needless to say, this year I won’t be sharing a conventional post about nutrient dense foods, sugar-free desserts or supplements to help with digestion. Instead, I want to serve you one hearty helping of gratitude. Call it sappy, but it is important. It doesn't take long to do, and might bring just the spirit your holiday celebrations need.
Stop what you are doing. Take a deep breath. Write out 5 things that you are grateful for. Smile.
Illustration by Singer/Songwriter Erica Leigh