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Gratitude Is For More Than Thanksgiving

Gratitude is for more than just Thanksgiving season.  Many of us readily express our thanks and gratitude in November because of Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday, by the way) but we are less likely to do it throughout the rest of the year.  Maybe it is because we are too busy or too stressed or too afraid to share a heart-felt “thank you”.  Whatever the reason, it’s time that we start sharing our thanks during the other 11 months of the year as gratitude has benefits to our overall health.

 

Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, both tangible and intangible, and allows us to recognize the goodness in our lives.  As this goodness is partially outside of ourselves, it helps us connect to something larger than ourselves, whether that means connecting to another person, to another animal, to the natural world, or to a higher power.  Research shows that gratitude reinforces positive experiences and emotions, thereby leading to greater overall happiness and reduced risk for depression.  People who wrote about things they were grateful daily for 10 weeks for had higher happiness scores, exercised more, and fewer physician visits than people who wrote daily irritations.

 

Expressing gratitude also helps to develop stronger relationships, whether it is between two partners, family members, friends, or even coworkers because both people feel more positively about the other when gratitude is shared.  Studies show that when managers say “thank you” to their employees, they are more motivated to work harder.

 

Physical benefits for gratitude also exist.  Research shows that people who are grateful show improvements in sleep, including ability to fall asleep, sleep duration, and sleep quality.  This reduces daily fatigue while awake and also indirectly lowers the risk for obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, which are more common in persons with inadequate sleep.  These benefits can become apparent just 2-3 weeks after starting to practice gratitude (see below for ideas!).

 

Another health benefit of practicing gratitude is improved heart health.  People who are more grateful have lower blood pressure, improved heart rate, and lower levels of systemic inflammation, thereby reducing risk of heart disease and systemic heart failure.  A recent study also showed that patients who practiced gratitude showed improved blood vessel function at 2 weeks after a heart attack. 

 

There are several different ways that you can cultivate gratitude and you may find that one is more effective for you than another:

  1. Write a Thank You note – you can strengthen your relationship with someone else and improve happiness by sharing your appreciation for their impact on your life.
  2. Thank someone mentally – even just thinking about an individual and thanking them shows positive benefits.
  3. Keep a gratitude journal – make it a habit to write down 2-3 things that you grateful for, whether it is daily or weekly.
  4. Meditate – focus on something that you are grateful for as you meditate to strengthen positive feelings.  Meditation is also used to cultivate mindfulness, or the awareness of the present without judgement. 

Resources

In Praise of Gratitude. (2019, Jun 5). Retrieved Nov 7, 2019, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/in-praise-of-gratitude.

Allen, Summer.  Is Gratitude Good for Your Health?  (2019, Mar 5).  Retrieved Nov 7, 2019 from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/is_gratitude_good_for_your_health.