Thanksgiving: Gratitude Alone Improves Health




“Count your blessings.” Say, “Thank you.”

Good manners? Yes. but in addition to making our social group stronger, they also make us happier and healthier.

Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and author of “Gratitude Works!” conducted several studies that revealed the benefits of writing down things for which we are grateful.

“… We need to give thanks and be thanked. Feelings of gratitude bind communities together. When people appreciate the goodness they’ve received, they want to give back. Not only does this allow an individual to survive and prosper, but it also strengthens the society as a whole. It’s easy, in modern times, to forget this. We’re too busy… We disconnect from others and suffer the consequences, such as loneliness, anger, or a weakened immune system.”

Emmons recommends a morning meditation of things you’re thankful for, a bedtime counting of blessings, or writing a gratitude journal. (See below.) Such a consistent effort to appreciate the good things —the beauty of the day or the Thanksgiving turkey—improves our lives. Here are six of the ways:

1. You’ll feel happier.

In a study by Emmons, subjects who, for three weeks, wrote down daily one thing for which they were grateful, reported being 25 percent happier for six months afterwards.

2. You’ll boost your energy levels.

In Emmons’s gratitude-journal studies, those who regularly wrote down things for which they were thankful consistently reported an increasing sense of vitality. Those who simply kept a general diary saw little increase, if any. Giving thanks has been linked with improvements in physical health. The better your body functions, the more energetic you feel.

3. You get healthier.

Regularly practicing gratitude is associated with improved kidney function, reduced blood-pressure and stress-hormone levels, and a stronger heart. Grateful people take better care of themselves. They avoid smoking and drinking excessive alcohol. They exercise 33 percent more and sleep a half hour more each night.

4. You’ll be more resilient.

When we appreciate kindness and other gifts, we seek out the positives in life. As a result, we’re better at bouncing back from loss and trauma. “A grateful attitude toward life provides some protection for misfortune,” says Emmons. We see the blessings along with the misfortune.

5. You’ll improve your relationship.

A 2012 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology study of more than 300 individuals in relationships found those who felt more appreciated by their partners were more likely to appreciate their partners in return and to stay in the relationship longer than couples who didn’t feel appreciated by each other.

6. You’ll be a nicer person.

People can’t help but pay gratitude forward. So, when you express gratitude toward a spouse, a co-worker or a friend, he or she feels grateful in return. In addition, thanking people who help you makes them feel good and want to continue helping you and others.

How to write a gratitude journal: Recording your thoughts helps you focus on your gratitude, explains Emmons, who writes his own gratitude journal to remind himself “how good gratitude is. It gives us a better understanding of the people and events in our lives.” Here are ways to maximize the benefits:

1. Go for depth rather than breadth. Write more fully about one or two items rather than just a line or two about several. Simple lists of nice thoughts tend to be abandoned.

2. Write consistently. But it’s OK if you can’t do it every day. Once or twice a week is enough to boost happiness.

3. Write freely. Don’t worry about correct writing or spelling. No one else will see your journal unless you want.

Article from RealSimple.com.

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