Researchers at UC Davis are engaged in a long-range study of gratitude and how positive this emotion is for human health. Gratitude is connected with higher levels of good cholesterol and lower levels of bad cholesterol, and can lower your blood pressure.
“Gratitude blocks toxic emotions, such as envy, resentment, regret and depression, which can destroy our happiness,” wrote Robert Emmons, the UC Davis scientist leading the research. And here’s what’s really cool: You can be grateful at your own dining room table, with no fancy equipment needed: Just say grace. You don’t even have to be religious to say grace. It’s a simple exercise of gratitude that can be a secular experience, too. The important thing is to express gratitude for the food in front of you and the people around you. For this week’s Healthy Habits, here are a few of the many ways to say grace.
Sit in silence.
A very simple way to “say grace” is to simply bow your head before a meal for a moment and consider the people who worked to grow and harvest the food you’re about to eat. If you’re eating meat or fish, thank the animals for your nourishment. Also consider the people who prepared your meal.
View food as nourishment.
In this Buddhist version of grace, food is acknowledged as something that fuels the efforts of a spiritual person, not simply as something to stuff into our mouths:
Please bless this food that we may take it as a medicine,
With our minds free from attachment and desire.
May it nourish our bodies so that we can work
for the benefit of all sentient beings.
Invite the Divine
Depending on your views, you might ask for Spirit to join you. Here’s one from the Moravians, a Christian faith that has its origin in Europe, in the region of Bohemia and Moravia in what is the present-day Czech Republic.
Come, Lord Jesus, our guest to be
And bless these gifts
Bestowed by Thee.
And bless our loved ones everywhere,
And keep them in Your loving care.
Thank the Divine
According to Chabad.org, there are six ways to say a brachah rishonah (preceding blessing), each for different types of food. This one is for bread:
Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the
Universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth.
Catholics may be most familiar with this one:
Bless us, O Lord, and these, thy gifts,
which we are about to receive from your bounty.
Through Christ our Lord.
Say it with a sense of humor.
Challenge your family to come up with a silly grace. Something like this one, from Eclecticsite.com:
Please Lord, bless this food, and then bless it some more. We know it needs your blessing because we have eaten here before!”
However you say grace, embrace it as a way of being grateful for the food you eat, the table you sit at and the beautiful people around you. Cheers!