Gratitude is Good for you—Give Thanks Today
By Staci Amend
October 30, 2014
There’s a lot of talk this time of year about gratitude—it is, after all, the reason for the Thanksgiving season. And, even though we all know that kindness is theoretically its own reward, it still feels really good when somebody sends a thank-you note for a gift, or expresses gratitude for a kind act. Now here’s something you might not have known: feeling and expressing gratitude is actually good for you! Here’s a bit of background on the benefits of being thankful, along with a few tips for making this emotion a part of your daily life.
Be grateful, feel great
If you’re on Facebook, you may have seen “30 days of Gratitude” posts from friends or family members. This trend was actually inspired by clinical university research, which revealed that this most gracious of emotions can actually impact our well being. Researchers at the University of Miami and the University of California, Davis, asked one group to write about things for which they felt grateful and another to write about things that bothered them. After 10 weeks, the “gratitude group” was more optimistic, felt better about their lives, exercised more and had fewer doctor visits than the “grumpy group.”
A similar study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania asked participants to write letters to people who hadn’t been properly thanked; this group experienced an immediate increase in their “happiness index,” with benefits lasting for a month! Other studies have explored the positive effects of gratitude on relationships and employee motivation—and in all cases, expressing gratitude actually made people feel better.
What are you grateful for?
Most of us do really have many, many reasons to feel grateful on a daily basis, from good health and a loving family to a steady job and a solid roof over our heads. The trick is to actively acknowledge the positive in our lives, while letting go of any nagging negatives we might feel. For example, on a particularly stressful day, you might not, in the moment, feel grateful that you’ve embarked upon a weight loss program with Jenny Craig. You might feel better “served” by a cocktail or chocolate bar.
When that happens, take a big step back so you can see the big picture. When you decided to embark upon this journey, you took the first step toward a healthier lifestyle. Those two words have a unique meaning for every one of our members; they might mean hiking with their kids without feeling out of breath... being able to enjoy an intimate morning walk with their spouse… teaching healthy eating habits to the whole family… or even just feeling AMAZING in that bright-red reunion dress. These are all gifts deserving of our gratitude.
How will you show gratitude?
Likewise, there are many ways to cultivate gratitude in our lives. When somebody does something nice for you, thank him or her immediately in person, or send a note within a few days. We also love the idea of keeping a weekly gratitude journal. Write in-depth entries, or a simple list of 3–5 things for which you’re thankful. You can cite concrete things, like “my awesome dog,” or abstract concepts like “peace.” Trust us: there isn’t a wrong way to show gratitude—and doing so will feel so right.