Archive for November, 2015

Health Effects of Giving Thanks

November 25, 2015

On the heels of a generous fall of light and color, when bright pumpkins and squash signaled the coming Thanksgiving Feast, the plight of Parisians, of Syrians fleeing their country and our complicity in the chain of world events jolts us. We are no longer simply New Englanders; we are all world citizens who need to figure out how we can share this bountiful, beautiful Earth.

How can the spirit of Thanksgiving help us? Fortunately, several academic studies of the health effects of grateful people are freely available by googling ‘gratitude researchers’.

Lisa Aspinwall (University of Utah), and Robert Emmons (UC Davis) both study the health effects of giving thanks. In separate studies they found that grateful people have higher levels of alertness, determinism, optimism, and energy; they take better care of themselves, have less stress, exercise more, are happier, have stronger immune systems, and hold a brighter view of the future. Their academic studies and more are on the internet (google ‘gratitude researchers’). The health effects Aspinwall and Emmons found are attributes we need if we are to bring a healthful spirit of cooperation to the world and end our relentless competitive streak.

So, what do people do to build the habit of giving thanks? Options are wide open! Everything, every person, and every interaction is fair game.

One option is to keep a daily list of whatever makes us feel grateful. We begin to notice and observe more. At the end of the first day, we may jot down a special tree or path, a kind person, bubbly children, and a sunset. Day 2 might include the veto of the Tar Sands Project, a family gathering, a mentor, a bird that seemed to connect with us, lunch full of laughter with friends, a good day’s work. Day 3 might include a good night’s sleep, a warm jacket, a gentle snow, a call from a friend, fresh eggs, a raise in pay, snow tires, a great mechanic, and an awesome concert. My experience with this list keeping is that the list keeps getting longer each day as I ‘see’ more.

This habit gradually shapes us to be on the lookout in all our ordinary experiences, lets us see how much we do have to be thankful for and to acknowledge! Our expressions of thanks relax us and give us the energy to come up with positive possibilities for life here on Earth.

May we use our energies to figure out ways to share the earth’s bountiful resources so that we and the rest of the world can join in the spirit of Thanksgiving.


What’s Diversity got to do with Health?

November 17, 2015

Where do we go from here? Is our land use spinning out of control? What do we need to do to reclaim a once-healthy planet? Why do we need so much health care? How evolved are we as humans? Given the wide array of eco-prophets, who should we believe? “Diversity” seems to be the persistent buzz-word today. Do we even grasp what is meant by diversity? What or who is included?

On the morning news, we hear a Portugese woman lamenting the fact that the forest around her is disappearing, turned into a monoculture by some corporation. We read that Montreal is dumping sewage in the St. Lawrence River. Even on a temporary basis, this makes no sense. In NH, forests are being cut up in wide swaths for power lines, windmills, and natural gas lines. Our consciousness is being tweaked around our interference with wildlife by trophy hunting for bobcats or other wildlife, just for fun, not for sustenance. Why do we take pleasure in such action? We would be considered bizarre to value human trophies.

Who or what is included in the necessary diversity to keep a healthy balance on Earth? In our fetish with cleaning products and dishwashers, what are we eliminating that would probably keep us healthy? How are we contributing to the genocide of the very species that have protected or nourished us in the past? Why do we need evidence that we are wiping out a species as crucial to our food supply as bees to begin to reign in our use of pesticides? What can we do to change this scenario?

It is clear to us now that we do not have dominion over the other species, which, with us, share the Earth. Something as invisible as bacteria could wipe us out, no problem. Monoculture farming with GMO seeds and their pesticides ruin our soil and wipe out healthful nematodes and other beneficial organisms that supported our produce in the past, all of which puts us on a downward spiral for health.

We know that nature will survive. In the area around Chernobyl, uninhabitable by humans since the 1986 nuclear disaster, wildlife and plant life are making adjustments and thriving.

The point is: how interested are we, as humans, in surviving? How willing are we to recognize our dependence on the whole caboodle of life on Earth? At this season of Thanksgiving, how can we reach out and give thanks to all the beings that naturally act to keep the web of life we share healthy? How can we do our share?