Editorial: Being grateful is good for your health

Here we are at Thanksgiving once again, and this year it comes after an emotionally draining November election.

As it is that time of year, it is a safe bet someone will ask what you are thankful for. Aside from the predictable jokes your weird Uncle Harry will make about being thankful the election is finished so his NCIS reruns will no longer be interrupted by political ads, you may want to actually take a moment to ponder this question.

It turns out gratitude can improve your health.

No, really.

There are multiple scientifically-proven benefits to expressing thankfulness. It can lead to better mental and physical health. A 2009 peer-reviewed article from the National Library of Medicine identified that gratitude stimulates the brain, including the reward system.

Basically, being grateful tricks your brain into functioning better and releasing feel-good chemicals. The result for you is feeling happy and improved health. Think of it as a life hack.

While it is a little frustrating to know our brains are basically large toddlers that can be distracted out of a fit of tears by some candy, it is also comforting. Because other studies have shown people experience these benefits even if they are not actually feeling thankful. You can literally fake it ‘till you make it.

So maybe this year take a few minutes to list out some good things in your life. Maybe those feel-good chemicals will kick in before the extended family arrives.

Thanksgiving safety

Thanksgiving is also a time when many people are traveling. We think this is a good opportunity to remind those travelers about some safety tips.

COVID-19 is still around, and traveling around holidays is a very common time to experience exposure.

The number of cases and deaths have greatly decreased, and the widespread access to the vaccine has helped this. However, that is still not always enough. A case of COVID-19 can be mild and like a bad cold, but there are still people experiencing severe cases with long-lasting health consequences and death.

So if you are feeling sick, do not travel and be sure to get tested. If you are going on a train or an airplane, Black Friday shopping at midnight, attending a football party or any other activity involving hundreds of other people, consider wearing a mask and testing both before and two or three days after.

Winter is coming

As the temperatures continue to drop while prices rise, Mainers will start to get creative about saving money on home heat. Make sure your pursuit of affordable solutions does not put your life in jeopardy.

Last Monday, Nov. 14, a motel in Camden caught fire. We were on the scene for nearly three hours while firefighters from five municipalities worked together to extinguish the blaze.

While the Camden Fire Chief said he could not confirm the cause of the fire on the scene, the motel owner said his friend occupying that room had been using a space heater.

Thankfully nobody was hurt, but that is likely only because nobody was inside. The damage was extensive. That entire unit of the motel was destroyed, and likely the unit next door sustained serious damage as well.

The Maine State Fire Marshal, Joseph Thomas, reported 27 fire fatalities in 2021. Thomas said this is the highest number of fire fatalities since 1992, when there were 29 fire-related deaths. This year there have been 19 fire fatalities so far.

The top causes of Maine structure fires in 2021 were cooking and heating, with a combined total of more than 500 fires just from these two causes. Most of these were homes of some kind.

Please stay aware while cooking and while using wood stoves and electric heaters. Check with your local fire department if you are not sure about the safety of your setup.

If you are struggling to afford heat, talk to your town office. Most towns have some kind of fund set up to help residents, plus they have a large collection of other resources that are available.

The editorial board of The Camden Herald and The Courier-Gazette collaborate on important local issues.


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