When you think of Thanksgiving, it’s understandable if the first things to pop in your head range from turkeys to parades. It’s also one of the busiest travel days of the year as friends and families come together to share a meal and other traditions. As the name suggests, however, gratitude is at the holiday’s core and it’s intended to be a time to reflect on all you have to be thankful for over the past year. This year, as you count your blessings over a Thanksgiving bounty, keep in mind the many health benefits that gratitude can bring.
- Improved physical health and sleep. Grateful people are more likely to make their health a priority by exercising regularly and getting regular health and wellness checkups. They typically sleep better and feel less tired throughout the day.
- Improved mental health and self-esteem. A strong relationship exists between gratitude and overall wellbeing. Grateful people are more likely to benefit from increased happiness, empathy and self-esteem. They are less likely to compare themselves to others, allowing them to appreciate other people’s accomplishments rather than resent them. They also feel less envy, regret and other toxic emotions, and they experience reduced stress, anxiety and depression.
- Better relationships. Expressing gratitude can strengthen existing relationships and help you build new ones. It has a positive impact on how other people see you. They might see you as a potential friend, which could lead to an ongoing relationship.
Now that you understand the vast benefits of gratitude, how can you get in the habit of being more grateful? There’s no reason to wait for a holiday to reflect on your blessings and express your appreciation. Making gratitude a habit could improve your health and relationships year-round. Here’s how:
- Write it down. This might be one of the easiest ways to make gratitude a daily habit. The key is consistency. Keep a notebook or journal by your bed as a physical reminder to take a few minutes each morning before you rise or each evening before lights out to write down what you’re thankful for. Keep it short and simple!
- Leverage social situations or family time. Another way to help make gratitude habitual is to build it into existing routines. Family mealtime is a great opportunity to encourage everyone at the table to share something they’re thankful for. If you have regular lunch or coffee dates with a group of friends or coworkers, that works too. Find creative ways to get your family and friends involved.
- Share your appreciation for others. If you work in an office setting, keep a stack of cards at your desk so you can jot down a note of thanks and share it with a co-worker when the memory is fresh. Or make it a habit to mail a few letters each month to close family and friends. If putting pen to paper is challenging for you, use email or even social media to reach out to the special people in your life. It’s the thought that counts, not the format.
However you practice gratitude, the physical and mental health benefits will likely follow. Especially during a season that can be overwhelming and stressful for many, take the time to step back and be thankful for everything good in your life.
Dr. David Lowenstein is a Columbus, Ohio-based psychologist with more than 35 years of experience. He conducts individual, family, and group therapy sessions in his German Village office and also via telehealth. Dr. Lowenstein is also available for expert forensic testimony, and for educational workshops and presentations. He is frequently called upon as an expert source for print, radio, and broadcast media. Contact Dr. Lowenstein at Lowenstein & Associates, 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.