Thanksgiving is a few weeks away and is a wonderful time to remember and acknowledge our gratitude for the blessings in our life.  On the first Thanksgiving in 1621 the English settlers and the Native Americans celebrated with a feast to show their gratitude for the first successful harvest. Since then gathering together with family and friends to share a meal and reflect on what we are grateful has become a wonderful American tradition.  Almost 400 years later we now know that practicing gratitude not only makes you happier but also healthier.  Research shows that gratitude makes you feel better both physically and emotionally and the good news is it is a simple practice to cultivate.

What is gratitude?

According to Robert Emmons, a lead researcher in the field, gratitude is composed of two parts.  First the acknowledgement of goodness in one’s life and second, the recognition that the source of this goodness lies at least partially outside of one’s self.  This may come from other people, a higher power or nature.  While many are naturally more inclined to be grateful it can be cultivated through of a number of simple practices.

What are health benefits?

Researchers have discovered that practicing gratitude reduces stress, improves sleep quality, helps with trauma recovery, depression and anxiety.   In addition, showing gratitude has been shown to be fundamental in improving relationships. Gratitude improves our outlook and can help people when they are dealing with crisis or adversity.  Here are some simple ways to increase your gratitude and enjoy the benefits.

4 Ways to Increase Gratitude

Write down what you are grateful for each day.  Studies have shown that people who write down three items that they are grateful for at the end of each day will sleep longer and more deeply and will wake up in a better mood.  Keep a journal or pad of paper by your bed and jot down those blessings before you fall asleep.  Even if you can only say “I am grateful I am in my bed” it begins to change the way the brain is automatically wired to go negative or what is wrong thoughts.  It also teaches us to look for good things throughout our day and acknowledge them.

Look for opportunities to thank others.  As children we all learn that saying thank you is good manners.  Research now proves that appreciating what others do for us and thanking them for even little things goes a long way toward improving relationships.  Thanking others is a way to show we are not taking what they do for us for granted and also makes us feel better about ourselves.  Be specific about how the action was helpful and be genuine in your appreciation.

Write a detailed thank you note – deliver and read it to the recipient.  We all have people in our lives who have done something for us that has given us an opportunity to grow.  It might be a teacher, a boss, a friend or relative.  Research has shown that writing a very specific thank you note or letter to that person listing how they helped you and then delivering and reading it to them boosts the level of happiness in both the recipient and the person who writes it.

Create a family gratitude ritual.  Expressing gratitude as a family will improve family dynamics and help the family see their shared blessings.  Some families do so verbally around the dinner table and others do so at the end of the day.  Writing the blessings down on slips of paper and putting them in a jar to be read on New Year’s Day is another fun way to cultivate gratitude as a group.


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