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Science of Thanksgiving Gratitude: 4 Real Benefits

By Posted by Sara, from Institute of HeartMath
11/22/2011 7:21:04 AM

A day to give thanks, a plentiful bounty. As Thanksgiving approaches, I'd like to share a different perspective on giving thanks; 4 real benefits of gratitude; an Appreciation exercise; a free in-depth e-book The Appreciative Heart and, of course, wish you a Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Thanksgiving Day in the United States and (did you know?) in Brazil is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November as a day of gratitude for the nations' harvests. The holiday dates back nearly four centuries to the pilgrims in America, and just four decades in Brazil, where in 1949 the Brazilian ambassador in Washington D.C., so liked the holiday that he took the idea home, where it was promptly adopted.

Thanksgiving was celebrated in Canada on the second Monday of October this year, as it has been since 1957, to offer thanks at the end of the harvest season. Chung Ch'ui in China and Chuseok in Korea are major three-day national thanksgiving harvest festivals whose date of celebration varies slightly each year during the nations' harvest seasons. Among other countries that celebrate a national day of thanks are Australia, part of India, Japan, Liberia and Malaysia. Many other nations hold a variety of events to express gratitude for their nations' harvests.

Institute of HeartMath Feeds Food for Thought with Science of Thanksgiving Gratitude

Measuring someone's gratitude is quite literally possible with today's cutting-edge science and technology. So how exactly do you measure gratitude - scientifically?

Offering some food for thought this Thanksgiving - apart from the HeartMath Kitchen's Southern Turnip Mash, Vegetarian Rice Dressing, and Festive Fall Salad - the Institute of HeartMath® (IHM), a recognized leader in researching the physiology of emotions, is serving up a belt-buster when it comes to the latest understanding of gratitude.

The institute has been studying human emotions for nearly 20 years — among them gratitude and appreciation — emotions that are at the heart of an American holiday whose roots date back to 1621.

According to research at IHM, true feelings of gratitude, appreciation and other positive emotions can synchronize brain and heart rhythms, creating a bodywide shift to a scientifically measurable state called coherence. In this optimal state, the body’s systems function more efficiently, generating a greater balance of emotions and increased mental clarity and brain function.

The level of coherence you experience during feelings of appreciation can be measured by sensitive instruments. Coherence also can be measured using heart-rate variability (HRV) “the naturally occurring beat-to-beat changes in heart rate, which can be see in an electrocardiogram (ECG).

This method of measuring appreciation is much more precise than attempting to guess by observing how much someone is smiling. Measuring coherence can accurately show heart, brain and nervous-system interactions that are sensitive to changes in emotions.

While an individual — smiling or not — is experiencing coherence, the heart rhythm appears as a smooth wavelike pattern on an HRV graph. Contrast coherence with incoherence, created by negative emotions such as frustration and anger, which can often disrupt the synchronization of the body’s systems and create jagged or chaotic patterns on a graph.

Read more about the science of Thanksgiving gratitude at Care2.com.

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