The Health Benefits of Gratitude

Sep 25, 2023


Thanksgiving: the word itself reminds us to stop and remember what we’re thankful for. For many of us, the holiday season conjures feelings of coziness, warmth and much-anticipated togetherness.

This time of year can also be busy, full of events, obligations and to-do lists. But there’s one Thanksgiving tradition we should all hold on to and practice all year long: gratitude.

The power of positive thinking

Positive psychology, or practicing gratitude, doesn’t mean that you refuse to acknowledge life’s difficulties. Instead, it means that most of your thoughts are focused on how you can approach life in a positive or productive manner. For example, instead of viewing holiday get-togethers as “impossible,” try reframing your thoughts to look for new creative ways to connect. Even though the past few years may have been extra tough, staying positive is more important than ever. In fact, optimism has tangible health benefits.

Some researchers found that keeping a gratitude list was correlated with better exercise habits and fewer trips to the doctor. This power of positivity has also been linked to:

  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Longer life spans
  • Increased immune system strength
  • Better psychological well-being

Forming a gratitude practice

If you don’t have a gratitude practice, it may feel a little silly or forced at first. Over time, however, cultivating a positive mental state becomes easier and your mental health grows stronger. In fact, regularly practicing gratitude can even improve your relationships with those around you.

Consider these strategies for increasing your gratitude:

  • Keep a gratitude journal: This tip is one of the most common for a reason—it really does help. Studies have found that keeping a list of things you’re thankful for has a stronger impact on your mental health than writing down frustrations or irritations.
  • Send thank-you notes: Expressing gratefulness to others can make you feel happier, as well as improve your relationships. And you don’t need a reason to send a thank-you note—simply expressing gratitude for someone’s friendship can be just as meaningful as a traditional thank-you card.
  • Pray or meditate daily: Many people find that spirituality or religion is an excellent resource for helping them practice gratitude. For many, prayer is a perfect opportunity to express gratefulness. Alternatively, taking a few quiet moments of meditation to focus on pleasant thoughts can make a significant difference.
  • Share gratitude lists as a family: Building a mindset of thankfulness is helpful for children and teens, as well. Teach your children early about how focusing on the positive aspects of life can help their health and well-being. Consider keeping a family gratitude journal or simply sharing aloud what you’re thankful for each evening.

Read more: Five ways to find more time to enjoy the holiday spirit.

Choose thankfulness this Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving season, it might be tempting to think about all the difficulties this year may have held. Instead, redirect your thoughts to those of gratitude. Gratitude helps us focus on what we have instead of what we lack. And, although that may feel difficult at first, gratitude can help us feel happier and healthier in every way.