12 Days of Gratitude: Operation Gratitude Kicks Off Campaign of Giving for the Holiday Season by Operation Gratitude
As we enter into the holiday giving season during a global coronavirus pandemic, it is more important than ever to focus our attention on what we truly value and reflect on what we are grateful for, instead of who we cannot see or what we cannot do. We have had to find new ways to build relationships and cultivate a sense of community whether it be through a gift, a feeling or an experience. It is time to focus on the light we have inside us and how we can share that positive energy with others.
This holiday season consider an alternative to a typical gratitude challenge by trying out a virtual way of giving to make spirits bright. Direct your gratitude to those service members and first responders who are alone and feeling isolated during this special time of year. Operation Gratitude will give you that opportunity through our #12DaysofGratitude campaign! Every day through December 12, we will highlight specific actions for you to take and share with family and friends – simple, tangible ways to express gratitude to service members and their families, veterans and first responders. The actions you take with us will cost you little in terms of finances or time, but will make a big impact on the recipients of your gratitude and even your own well-being.
One of the most rewarding aspects of giving back to those that deserve your gratitude is all the benefits you receive. There have been numerous studies over the years that demonstrate the increased quality of life that can come with expressing your gratitude all year round. Here are a few:
- Gratitude improves psychological health. Many studies have shown how giving and receiving acts of kindness reduce negative emotions and increase happiness. Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, tested the impact of various positive psychology interventions on 411 people, each compared with a control assignment of writing about early memories. When their week's assignment was to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness, participants immediately exhibited a huge increase in happiness scores. This impact was greater than any other intervention, with benefits lasting for a month.
- Gratitude enhances empathy. If a person is more grateful and sensitive to what others are going through like the sacrifice our frontline workers make each day, then there is increased understanding and empathy. Research shows that when you help someone, there’s a process that happens in your brain that releases serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin – the ‘feel-good’ chemicals that create a “helper’s high.” Studies have found that individuals who show kindness and concern for others had a 23 percent lower level of cortisol – the stress hormone – compared to the average person. Just by showing compassion for someone else you relieve stress.
- Gratitude improves physical health. If you are grateful for the parts of your body that work and support you, you can see the benefits of trying to stay in shape. Paul Mills, a professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that the more grateful people were, the healthier they were. He recruited 186 men and women, average age 66, who already had some damage to their heart, either through years of sustained high blood pressure or as a result of heart attack or even an infection of the heart itself. They each filled out a standard questionnaire to rate how grateful they felt for the people, places or things in their lives. The more grateful they were, they had less depressed mood, slept better and had more energy.
These are just a few of the benefits of showing gratitude. You will see from our virtual challenge that the ideas are so satisfying you might want to continue it past the 12 days! Please keep in mind impactful words from Operation Gratitude CEO and retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Schmiegel when he says, “Our nation’s military service members and first responders put their lives on the line to protect us, and we will do anything we can to help brighten their holidays, bring a smile to their faces, and express our appreciation for all that they do. When the nights get dark earlier and temperatures plummet, there is no better time to slow down and reflect on things you are grateful for, especially those heroes among us.”
We cannot spread joy without our volunteers, so we hope you get excited each day for a moment of cheer! We at Operation Gratitude hope you choose to pay it forward this holiday season with your heart, time or donation. You can make a difference every day by serving those who serve. You can sign up at 12DaysOfGratitude.com.
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