“Use the supports available to you.” This quote came from my instructor in a movement class called Feldenkrais. The supports she was referring to included the ground, our hips, our shoulders and other body parts that help us roll over, lie down and get up. But her comment got me thinking about all the other supports in life available to us.
November is often a month in which we have occasion to reflect on gratitude, given the Thanksgiving holiday, though doing this every month can have longer-lasting effects than those we get from sitting around the table after eating turkey dinner feeling stuffed, wondering why we asked for second helpings, and making resolutions to diet the following day.
There are many ways to feel grateful. One of the most common ones for children and adults is to compare ourselves to others who are worse off, as in “I’m grateful I don’t live on the East Coast, “which I’m hearing a lot this week. A second level of gratitude is to feel grateful for what we have, but not as a comparison. People always say, “I’m grateful for my family and friends, and add “for my job, my house, my pet, my neighbors,” whatever applies.
The last level of gratitude, or at least the last I can think of, considers both the big picture as well as the details of our lives. Under the big picture, we can be thankful for the conditions on our planet that sustain us, such as, the air we breathe, the sun, rain, and gravity, or feel grateful for life itself. In the details, we consider what others do to support us, from the farmers who grow the food that nourishes us, to producers of all the products we depend on for our daily lives, to the kindnesses we experience from strangers.
Reflecting on gratitude is one of the supports available to us every day. Whatever the reasons for feeling grateful, researchers tell us that thinking about it regularly can improve our physical well-being, lower the levels of stress hormones in our blood, and “undo the cardiovascular effects of negative emotions.” Think about this when you wake up after your post-Thanksgiving-meal nap.