Thanksgiving is a great time to take a step back and appreciate what we have in our lives. No matter your situation, we can all find something we are grateful for. However, this shouldn’t just be a once a year occurrence. Studies have shown that being thankful and having a positive attitude is beneficial for your overall health.
Even if you factor out personality, gratitude is still important to your psychological well-being. This means that the effects of gratitude apply to everyone. Living a thankful life will decrease your materialism and envy, but will increase your life satisfaction because you will compare yourself to people less often.
With greater life satisfaction and more gratitude, you are less likely to experience depression, anxiety, and envy, but are are more likely to be empathic, forgiving, helpful, and supportive of others.
There are also early indications that gratitude is good for your physical well-being. Gratitude is shown to reduce stress levels over time. A study conducted in Denmark, a country known for being one of the happiest in the world, found having a positive outlook means you are more likely to exercise. This has a circular effect: during physical exertion, endorphins, the hormone that makes you feel good, are released, which makes you happier, and when you are happier you are even more likely to exercise.
Sleep and gratitude are also related. Being more thankful can increase your sleep quality and duration. It can also decrease the amount of time it takes for you to fall asleep. This happens because when negative thoughts occupy your mind, your sleep is impaired, but positive thoughts make it easier to fall asleep and have a restful night.
Now that you know being thankful is good for you, try putting it into practice. Here are some ideas from Sonja Lyubomirsky, a leading researcher on gratitude and happiness, on how to get started living a grateful life:
1. Write it down
While it may be an old mode of communication, try sending a thank you letter. It could be to someone from your past or someone who recently did something nice. If you don’t have a specific person in mind, try keeping a gratitude journal. It will get you thinking about what you're grateful for, and it’s a great way to see the smaller things in life you appreciate.
2. Express gratitude in-person
Isn’t it great when someone thanks you for something you did or just for being you? Turn the tables and be the one who thanks the other person. Saying thank you does not have to be a huge gesture. Simply saying thank you with sincerity will make an an impact on both you and the person you are thanking. Both of you will leave the conversation will lifted spirits.
3. Express gratitude through art
While this may not be for everyone, for those of you who are feeling artsy, you can put something together to give to someone you appreciate. Again, it doesn’t have to be something monumental, just something that says thanks. It could be a photo collage, a handmade card, or a small painting or watercolor. Get creative!
4. Make it a date
Taking someone you are thankful for to coffee or dinner is a great way to show them your thanks, but don’t forget to actually tell them how grateful you are for them.
5. Give thanks once a day
Whether it’s writing in your gratitude journal or saying thank you to a friend or mentor, pick a time of day to devote for expressing your gratitude. This could be right when you get up, after dinner, or before bed. It’s as easy as taking a five minute break from checking social media to express your gratitude.Main Photo Credit: Pressmaster/Shutterstock.com; In-Text Photo Credits: Death to Stock