My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. I like it because it’s the opposite of the materialism that seems to surround Christmas. And, while I do enjoy the trappings of the Christmas holiday season, I truly love Thanksgiving. To me, it embodies all that is bountiful and peaceful in life. Plus, it’s a holiday that is all about seeing far-flung family and enjoying delicious food.
In a world where we often think about what we will get next, and that seems to have a lot of focus on materialism and buying things, a day devoted to thankfulness for what we already have makes a nice change. Thanksgiving can also be a good reminder that gratitude is good for you. Not only can a better attitude — one that focuses on gratitude for what you have and who is in your life — help you overcome life’s challenges, but it can also be good for your health.
Improving Your Health with Gratitude
We all know that philosophers, moralists and others have insisted, over the centuries, that gratitude is an essential virtue. However, there is an increasing body of medical evidence that gratitude can be good for your physical and mental health, as well as for your soul. Here are some was that gratitude can help you improve your health:
- Protective behaviors: Those who make gratitude a regular part of their lives — seeing it as a lifestyle — are more likely to eat healthier, exercise often, and engage in other healthy activities. So, as you work to cultivate gratitude, you will be more likely to be motivated to take better care of your physical health.
- Stress reliever: Gratitude can help you relieve stress. Being thankful, and focusing on the good things in your life, can help you move the focus away from things that provide stress. And, since stress has been connected to heart disease, cancer, and depression, all of these conditions can be alleviated, to some degree, with the help of gratitude. Plus, with less stress in your life, you are likely to feel better in general.
- Immune system: You can protect your immune system, and possibly get sick less, if you are grateful. Gratitude promotes optimism, and there have been studies that indicated optimism can help the immune system. While you will still get sick sometimes, of course, there is a chance that your attitude of gratitude might actually help you recover faster.
How to Develop Gratitude
If you want to take advantage of gratitude, you need to develop it as a trait. The truth is that gratitude takes practice. However, if you work to cultivate thankfulness in your life, you will see the benefits. One of the most effective things you can do is to take notice of the good things in your life right now. You can notice such things as your family, a good book, sunny weather, help from a friend, or any number of small happinesses in your life. And, of course, get in the habit of saying “thank you” to others.
Many people like to keep a gratitude journal to help them keep track of what they are thankful for. While this isn’t necessary, it can be helpful to write down three to five items that you are glad for each day. This will help you focus on gratitude, and help you pay attention to good things throughout the day. Plus, when you are having a down day, you can look through your journal and be reminded of the things you have to be thankful for.
How do you try to be more thankful?