Every Thanksgiving in America, many households go around the table and declare what they are thankful for this year. It’s a wonderful gesture and surely makes people think – even if just for a moment. But there is more to being thankful during the holidays and this is why gratitude is crucial during Thanksgiving and beyond.
While you’re stopping to count your blessings or show your gratitude, you are doing more than reflecting. Being grateful actually helps your health. Showing gratitude helps mentally, physically, socially, and allows you to focus on the good.
In an article at Berkeley, after studying a group who kept with gratitude practices and a journal based on their gratitude showed the following physical benefits:
Some studies have even shown that it can help people stop smoking and lower their stress. Which leads us to the next benefit of being grateful.
Let’s face it, the holidays can be a stressful time. Some people have problems with their family members, some are lonely and have no family, and some are stressed over the upcoming gift-giving season. No matter what the reason someone may be anxious or experiencing stress, gratitude may help lower it.
By lowering blood pressure, you are helping lower your stress levels. Not only that but if there are issues with those surrounding you, what better way to alleviate some of the tension than by expressing the things that you are thankful for and hearing it from others?
Depression is a major issue for some during the holidays, and Thanksgiving is no exception. According to an article at the LA Times:
One study found that counting blessings and “gratitude letter writing” reduced the risk of depression in patients by 41 percent over six months.
It’s simply harder to be sad when you’re being positive. While there are many people with depression that requires treatment, we realize being thankful is not a cure-all. But it does help and may lift your spirits a little. Doing it on a daily basis strengthens that.
There have been huge breakthroughs for some who have changed their outlook on life and being grateful for what they have. There have even been studies on how people think and how it affects their mental and physical health. But let’s look at how being grateful and using positivity works.
Those who are grateful have a few aspects that are different from those who don’t. They tend to have more optimism, which leads to the aforementioned positivity. They feel more in control of their lives and there is less of the “me versus the world” attitude. Being grateful to someone else takes away the feeling of others being out to get you or that no one understands your struggle.
And most importantly, if you are in recovery there is no better thing to be appreciative of. So even if you cannot seem to think of many things, that is one that you can use to think of others.
No matter who you spend Thanksgiving with, expressing gratitude is paramount in building a bridge in strained relationships. It may not work every time and some relationships need plenty of work but look at it this way. If you are expressing what you are grateful for, you are expressing happy thoughts. Sometimes this can be contagious. And if you express your gratitude to others, then it shows them that you still love them, no matter how apart you’ve grown or what anger issues are at play.
And even in a scenario where you are the only one expressing your gratitude or even if others scoff at you, you are the one benefiting from sharing your gratitude so it’s still a winning situation.
As stated in Psychology Today:
Studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. Rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs—a major factor in reduced self-esteem—grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.
Thanksgiving is certainly a day for somewhere they feel they must compete with their siblings or compare themselves to others.
All of these benefits are true for Thanksgiving. Yet, they are true for every day of the year as well. If you don’t normally practice outward gratitude and positivity, Thanksgiving is the perfect place to start. Once you have tried it, using it every day only amplifies the benefits mentioned and leads to a much better outlook. You cultivate gratitude and you cultivate a whole new way of looking at life.