Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday tradition that’s been celebrated in the US and Canada since the mid 1800s. At the heart of the Thanksgiving celebration is the universal message of gratitude.
Gratitude is the expression of being thankful. It’s about having an attitude of appreciation, allowing yourself to feel awe, not taking things for granted, and seeing the potential upside of life’s challenges.
The Link Between Gratitude and Well-Being
Practicing gratitude can benefit the mind, body, and spirit in a number of ways. It can lower stress levels, improve sleep, strengthen relationships with friends and family, and even increase our emotional resilience. Medical research has confirmed this direct correlation between gratitude and well-being:
- A 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences found that people who regularly expressed gratitude reported feeling healthier than their counterparts; a correlation that was mediated by psychological health and an attitude to seek help for health concerns.
- In a 2013 study, Dr. Robert Emmons, a leading authority on gratitude, noted that: “Gratitude is a key, underappreciated quality in the clinical practice of psychology, its relevance deriving from its strong, unique, and causal relationship with well-being, as well as its dynamic healing influence on the therapist-patient relationship.”
- Acts of kindness (public expressions of gratitude) can be linked to an increase in life satisfaction, according to a study published in The Journal of Social Psychology.
- Researchers who looked at the role of gratitude in asymptomatic heart failure patients found that “patients expressing more gratitude also had lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers,” as well as better sleep and mood, and less fatigue.
How to Cultivate Gratitude
Practicing gratitude is a conscious choice we make to affect positive change in our lives. There are a number of ways to practice gratitude, such as:
Writing a thank-you note: Simple acts of appreciation, like a handwritten thank-you note, can nurture a relationship and make you feel good about strengthening those bonds.
Appreciating nature: Beauty is everywhere. Taking a moment to stop and experience the beauty in nature can provide you with a greater sense of well-being that can stay with you throughout the day.
Keeping a gratitude diary: Write down 5 or 6 things daily for which you are grateful. Recognizing what you are grateful for will help keep you focused on what you have rather than what you have not.
Meditating: A daily meditation practice, for even 10 minutes a day, helps reset your body’s autonomic stress response, which can help to improve sleep, reduce pain, enhance mood, and foster a better sense of well-being.
As we prepare for another Thanksgiving holiday in the US, it’s my wish that gratitude and all its benefits be present in your life and the lives of those you care about. And I wish you and yours a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving.