Thanksgiving can be a very exciting time. It is a time for friends, family, and lots of food. Whether excited for a Thanksgiving get-together or for getting a day off work, this holiday highlights an important concept — being grateful.
While this one day is dedicated to being thankful, there are benefits to practicing gratitude all year long. In fact, research in psychology supports the idea that being grateful benefits mood, friendships, and overall happiness.
What is Gratitude?
While definitions for gratitude may differ slightly by source; it can be thought of as the idea, quality, or emotional state of being thankful and of appreciating goodness in life. It involves both identifying the good in life and recognizing its source.
If we are thankful for meaningful friendships, for example, we can then acknowledge specific friends and their qualities as a source.
Taking the time to be grateful promotes a more positive attitude towards life. Focusing on the good can help us be more outgoing, likeable, and even healthier. It helps build strong social connections which also makes us more confident, empathetic, and trusting.
A Boost in Mood
Practicing gratitude has an overall positive effect on mood. People who practice gratitude are less likely to be depressed or to fall victim to mental burnouts.
These individuals seem to be more satisfied with their lives and to have positive views of themselves and others.
Stronger Social Connections
Gratitude has a fundamental role in social and romantic relationships. It makes others feel appreciated and respected in the workplace.
People who practice gratitude tend to engage in pro-social behavior — behavior that benefits others — including helping others, being cooperative, and expressing compassion.
Gratitude has positive effects on both physical and mental health. Research shows that it lowers stress levels and improves sleep — both of which have positive effects on mood and productivity.
It also translates to lower blood pressure, less overall inflammation, and even a stronger immune system.
How to Practice Gratitude
There are many ways to practice gratitude ranging from keeping a gratitude journal to simply saying “thank you” more often. The point is to take the time to acknowledge and appreciate the good things in life.
Gratitude journals are very effective and are easy to keep. Dr. Laurie Santos, professor of psychology at Yale University, recommends keeping a daily gratitude journal as part of a “rewirement assignment” in her class “The Science of Well-Being.”
She states, “you can just write down a word or a short phrase.” The purpose of this assignment is to get students to experience gratitude and live happier lives by taking a few minutes every night to write down what they are thankful for. The point is to take the time to appreciate.
- Allen, Summer. A White Paper Prepared for the John Templeton Foundation …May 2018, https://ggsc.berkeley.edu/images/uploads/GGSC-JTF_White_Paper-Gratitude-FINAL.pdf.
- “The Science of Well-Being.” Coursera, https://www.coursera.org/learn/the-science-of-well-being.