Good news with Thanksgiving approaching: According to a number of studies, people who develop a regular gratitude practice are physically and mentally healthier.
Studies show 5 benefits of a gratitude practice
- Better overall perceived happiness
- More fulfilling relationships, including marriages
- Increased productivity at work
- Increased self-esteem and resilience to challenges
- Better physical health, including fewer doctor’s visits, lower BP and decreased pain
For some people, there’s a spiritual or philosophical component to offering thanks. Sometimes, gratitude is already part of a personal practice of prayer or meditation. But whatever your traditions or religious beliefs, there are many ways to build thankfulness into your life.
5 ways to grow more grateful
- Journal once per week about things you’re grateful for from the proceeding days.
- Express gratitude to a spouse, relative or friend about something you appreciate.
- Thank employees or colleagues for help or good work.
- Write a letter of gratitude to anyone you feel has never been properly thanked.
- Get into a habit of counting your blessings when your mind is free to wander.
Find the way that works for you
Building a gratitude practice into your life will work best if it’s something that feels natural. You can keep it simple by counting your blessings when you’re folding laundry, walking the dog or unloading the dishwasher. Or, work it into your family dinner by asking each member to share one thing they’re glad about from their day.
It doesn’t matter what or who you’re grateful for. You can think of things or people who are far away (I’m grateful I had so many good years with my mother) or things that you observe in the moment (I’m thankful for these beautiful fall colors.)
Start small this Thanksgiving
Even if you aren’t sure you’re ready to start a regular practice, try giving thanks over the November holiday. Rather than focusing on unrealistic expectations for how everything is supposed to be, see how it feels to focus on all you’ve been given.
With young children, consider making a gratitude “tree.” With multicolored construction paper, you can draw a trunk and limbs as background. Then, cut out many multi-colored paper leaves. Each leaf can have something the child is grateful for written on it (my hamster, Disneyland, grandma’s house). Find ideas for more gratitude-related kids’ crafts on Stephanie Lynn’s blog, Under the Table and Dreaming.
Regardless of the method you choose, making time to give thanks may keep you healthier and help you find more fulfillment in your life, work and relationships.
If you need a little extra help with your physical or mental health, find a primary care provider near you.
Gratitude as Human Strength: Appraising the Evidence. Robert A. Emmons, Cheryl A. Crumpler.
Counting Blessings in Early Adolescents: An experimental study of gratitude and subjective well-being. Jeffery J. Froh, William J. Sefick, Robert A. Emmons.
Gratitude and Well-Being: A Review and Theoretical Integration. Alex M. Wood, Jeffrey J. Froh, Adam W.A. Geraghty.
Gratitude and Well Being: The Benefits of Appreciation. Randy A. Sansone, M.D., Lori A. Sansone, M.D.