Year 2020: The Health Benefits of Thanksgiving.
By Ore Taiwo Makinde.
The Year 2020: Is there anything in this year that calls for thanksgiving? If so, is there a way in which my health would benefit from it?
Can you remember how the year 2020 started? Like almost everyone else, I had an inspiring and exhilarating time during the cross-over service on December 31st, 2019. I had high expectations. I was looking forward to a year filled with opportunities to improve myself, to build relationships and to develop projects. I had even hoped to earn more. Can anyone feel me?
Global lockdown or meltdown?
Then came 2020, with news from a far country. The novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 had begun to ravage China and several other countries. Little did we know that the unwanted visitor would cross over into our borders and take away the lives of the low and mighty. This was swiftly followed by a global lockdown. I remember my little niece saying that the situation was more like a melt-down. It was not a surprise to hear that sales and revenue had starting falling. Businesses crashed and many lost their sources of livelihood.
In Nigeria, most businesses were in the phase of recovery until the recent #EndSARS protests for justice were truncated by miscreants, thugs and non-deserving citizens of Nigeria. It was a black day for all of us on the 20th of October 2020 when we heard that innocent blood had been shed and spilled on to the National flag. Many hearts are still bleeding from the loss. As if this was not enough, neighbours turned against each other, widespread looting occurred and multiple governmental and private infrastructure were burnt down. Alas, my dear fellow-Nigerians! How did we get here?
November: A Month of Thanksgiving
Incidentally, the month ahead is the month of thanksgiving. November, the thanksgiving month is celebrated annually in several countries particularly in the United States, Canada and even in Liberia. In these countries, a day of the month is chosen as a National holiday. Although not an official holiday in Nigeria, some of us still look forward to marking the thanksgiving month in one way or the other. However, in the midst of all these crises, there doesn’t seem much to be thankful for, right?
According to Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and popular TED-x speaker, being thankful is probably one of the most neglected but accessible self-care tools we can employ on a daily basis. In overwhelming and frustrating seasons such as the one in which we are in, being thankful comes with a wealth of health benefits that help to soothe our pain and overcome our grief as well as angry and bitter emotions.
Here are some health benefits of thankfulness:
- Being thankful can reduce the levels of unhealthy emotions such as sadness, anger and frustration which can lead to depression and elevated blood pressure. This will ultimately improve your longevity.
- Thankfulness will help you to appreciate and value the most important people as well as the positives in your life. It will also help you to develop new friendships. This is important for your support system and social well-being.
- Being thankful is a key to improved sleep. In order to sleep better, sleep hygiene rules encourage you to avoid anxious and disturbing discussions or thoughts at bedtime. These jerk up your adrenaline levels, delaying your sleep. To mitigate these effects, at bedtime you can reflect on what you are thankful for and then write them down in your journal.
- Thankfulness is also a trait or strength that improves your character. Being thankful for what you are or what you have reduces the tendency for you to focus negatively on the success of another person. This mitigates feelings of jealousy, spite and resentment towards others, helping you to enjoy your relationships.
- Being thankful fosters a sense of loyalty in the person being appreciated. This happens when a boss says ‘thank you’ to his employee. This creates an intangible incentive for the employee to do better, thus enhancing a healthier work environment.
- Gratitude improves your spirituality by connecting you to a Source higher than yourself. Spirituality is tied to positive thinking, hope as well as improved health outcomes. Studies show that spirituality is an important factor which facilitates your ability to enjoy life in spite of ill-health, also aiding faster recovery compared to those who harbour anger, grudges and unforgiveness.
How Can I Be Thankful?
In case you are wondering how to be thankful, start with a decision to express your thankfulness each day. You can do this by meditating or by singing a song. You can open a gratitude journal to write in everyday or write a thank-you note to someone. Every small opportunity you get, endeavour to say ‘thank you’ and watch out for the change it will bring within you and around you. On the 1st of October, I embarked on a 60-day lifestyle challenge along with like-minded others. One of our daily tasks includes gratitude journaling. This has enriched us with so much positivity and trust in God despite the surrounding circumstances.
In conclusion, individuals who are more thankful are more likely to enjoy a healthier quality of life in terms of physical, emotional and social well-being. Today, replace grumblings and complaints with thanksgiving. It is not November yet, but expressing this virtue of thankfulness throughout the year will help you derive the enormous benefits that come with it.
Dr Ore Taiwo Makinde is Consultant Family Physician and certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician.