Gratitude in Joshua Trees National Forest ©2017 Eric Bailey

Gratitude in Joshua Trees National Forest ©2017 Eric Bailey

Every year around the holidays, my family goes around the table and shares something that we’re grateful for.  It can seem corny at times, but it’s a tradition, and we always do it.  The shares usually run the gamut from the expected to the unusual.  But no matter what is shared,  the experience never fails to put a smile on all of our faces.  The interesting thing is that there’s a scientific explanation as to why we’re smiling.  

Gratitude changes us.

Research published by Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami indicates that people who regularly express gratitude are happier than those who don’t.  Not only that, folks who spend intentional time being grateful exercise more frequently! Not a bad thing during the holiday eating season...  There’s also amazing data for anyone who has to make decisions at work or at home.  Functional MRI research by Drs. Joel Wong and Joshua Brown of Indiana University indicated that expressing gratitude increases activity in our medial prefrontal cortex.  This is the area of our brain that is responsible for learning and decision-making!  The more that we’re grateful, the better decisions we make!

Looking at the research, I can’t think of a better argument to turn this hokey little tradition into a daily or weekly habit.  So as Thanksgiving fades away in our rear-view mirror, let’s do ourselves a favor and keep being Thankful.