There’s a legend that tells us of a fountain; springs that restore youth to those who bathe or drink from its pristine waters. Magical wells of eternal youth may exist only in fables, but in truth, there are keys that can unlock mental, emotional, and physical health and vitality. Strong evidence shows that exercise and physical activity provide bone strength, improved sleep, enhanced memory function, diminished heart risks, fewer falls, and less pain and depression. Eating well, staying socially active, and remaining connected to friends and family are also delightful ways to live an excellent and healthy life.
However, increasing evidence indicates that the true secret to a happy, healthy life is found in maintaining an attitude of gratitude. Exceptional living begins with a lifestyle of thankfulness. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published findings by Robert Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Michael McCullough of the University of Miami suggesting that people who are grateful have improved mental alertness and fewer reported physical symptoms. They also deal with stress and daily challenges more effectively, have stronger immune systems, maintain a brighter view of the future, and engage more in healthy activities and behaviors.
“Thanks is what multiplies joy and makes any life large,” writes Ann Voskamp, author of the New York Times bestseller, One Thousand Gifts. In her book, Ann shares her difficult journey to gratefulness through raw accounts of pain and hardship. When a friend dared her to count one thousand blessings over one year, Ann discovered the secret to living fully was to live thankfully. Ann shares her story with the hope of helping others embrace the rich lifestyle of radical gratitude that trades fearful control for grateful grace.
It’s been said that it’s not happy people who are thankful; it’s thankful people who are happy. So how do we cultivate a heart of gratefulness that sees beauty and blessings every day and brings health to body and soul? Ann suggests filling a journal with what fills your heart with joy: fat wool sweaters, moonlight’s glow, warm cookies, fresh corn. Others have filled elegant glass jars with post-it notes on which they wrote things that give them joy. Take a walk each day and take the time to revel in nature. Savor delicious foods, notice the sunlight as it streams through a window, laugh as often as you can, and be ridiculously surprised by joy. Take pleasure in gratitude, the seemingly insignificant yet delightfully healthy secret to a life well-lived.