Today Is National Visit Your Relatives Day!

We all do it. We get so caught up with our busy, busy lives and fast-paced lifestyles that we barely see our relatives unless they live with us. In fact, far too many of us lose touch with relatives that aren’t close by. National Visit Your Relatives Day reminds us to stop for a moment, take time out and call or visit those relatives we care about and haven’t seen for a while. Life really is too short not to make time for family and that goes for extended family too.

Seeing a special aunt, uncle or cousin brings back memories, usually of childhood when get-togethers seemed to be more common. Be grateful for your relatives, as few or as many as you have. There’s a unique thread that’s woven through all families that ties us together. Who among us doesn’t have a favorite relative who acts as a stalwart support, helping us get through tough times and celebrating with us when we have successes? We need our families and they need us.

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Your relatives are your past, present and future. The older ones are living history. Not only can they tell you stories about your heritage, they can tell you what the world was like when they were young – far, far different than today. Your older relatives also are important when it comes to finding out genetic health issues that might be passed down. And don’t forget that the younger ones are the future and will carry on your family’s legacy.
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Even if it’s only by phone, keep the connection. A favorite, 90-year-old uncle can answer questions you may have about your mother if she’s passed. Your cousin and you can dissect family dynamics. It’s quite likely you had holiday diners together when you were younger and no one can erase those memories. Like the time your aunt put a Brussel sprout on top of your cousin’s piece of pumpkin pie because he refused to eat them? We all have funny memories.

And yes, some of course are sad. That’s part of life. But if you regularly keep your arm extended to your entire family, you can share your melancholy with people who really, truly understand what you feel and will walk down memory lane with you.

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Think about it for a second. What would life be like without your grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and/or nephews? Pretty dull, heh? Take some time right now and pick up the phone. Better yet, get in your car and go for a visit!

The Science Behind Gratitude

At MONAT, gratitude is one of our core values. We believe that gratitude has the power to transform our perception. And science is backing us up. Within the past decade, there has been an increasing number of studies demonstrating that “gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity and build strong relationships,” according to Harvard Medical School (2015).

Additional benefits resulting from a regular practice of gratitude, as found in a University of Birmingham study (2013), include:

• Few intellectual biases
• More helpfulness toward others
• Raised self-confidence
• Better work attitude
• Strengthened resiliency
• Less physical pain
• Improved health and longevity

And it doesn’t stop there! Extensive research reveals that those who actively practice being grateful for the things they have feel better mentally and physically compared to those who think more about what they lack in life. Research published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research (2009) showed that study participants who expressed gratitude frequently “slept better and longer than those who didn’t.”

The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, studies the psychology, sociology and neuroscience of well-being. Scientists there have corroborated other findings about gratitude and found that people who make gratitude a consistent part of their life enjoy numerous other benefits:

• Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure
• Higher levels of positive emotions
• More joy, optimism, and happiness
• Acting with more generosity and compassion
• Feeling less lonely and isolated

Just What IS Gratitude?

The word gratitude comes from the Latin word gratia, meaning grace or graciousness. As reported in the Harvard Mental Health Letter, “Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives.”

Interestingly, whatever one’s current outlook toward life is, it’s possible to develop the trait of gratitude on one’s own. Here are some techniques you can use:

Take the Time to Write a Thank-you Note - You will make yourself happier and also can cultivate a relationship with a friend by writing a thank-you note, telling them how much you enjoy and appreciate how much they mean to you. Mail it or read it to them in person. Regularly send one gratitude letter a month. Occasionally even write one to yourself.

Why do this? A study at the University of Pennsylvania found that when study participants’ assignment was to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone they felt they had never truly thanked for a kind act, participants immediately exhibited a huge increase in happiness scores, with benefits lasting for a month. Other research reinforces this concept.

Thank Someone Mentally - You get the same benefits of gratitude if you simply think about someone who has done something nice for you and thank the person in your mind.

Keep a Gratitude Journal - Develop a daily habit to write down thoughts about the gifts of life you've received that day. In a study at the University of Miami, those who wrote about gratitude vs. those who wrote about things that displeased them for a 10-week period were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Interestingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.

Count your blessings - Decide on a special time each week to sit back and write about your blessings, contemplating about the good things that happened or what you are grateful for. When you write, focus and remember how you felt and what your mood was like when something good happened.

Gratitude makes people appreciate what they have versus continually wanting something new, thinking that will make them happier…or believing they can't feel satisfied until all their physical and material needs are satisfied. Gratitude enables people to gain joy from what they have instead of feeling pessimistic or down over what they don’t have.

At MONAT, we make gratitude a way of life. We share our time, our energy and our resources with our families, friends, partners, clients and customers. You can too! At MONAT, this is Gratitude Week. Embrace it, share it and make the most of it!