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7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude

You'll be grateful that you made the change (and you'll sleep better).

By Amy MorinPsychology Today

“Stop feeling sorry for yourself,” we are often told. And while it can be hard to avoid self-pity entirely, mentally strong people choose to exchange self-pity for gratitude. Whether you choose to write a few sentences in a gratitude journal or simply take a moment to silently acknowledge all that you have, giving thanks can transform your life. 

Here are 7 scientifically proven benefits:

  1. Gratitude opens the door to more relationships. Not only does saying “thank you” constitute good manners, but showing appreciation can help you win new friends, according to a 2014 study published in Emotion. The study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. So whether you thank a stranger for holding the door or send a thank-you note to that colleague who helped you with a project, acknowledging other people’s contributions can lead to new opportunities.
     
  2. Gratitude improves physical health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences. Not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health. They exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups, which is likely to contribute to further longevity.
     
  3. Gratitude improves psychological health. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
     
  4. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kindly, according to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky. Study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.
     
  5. Grateful people sleep better. Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer.
     
  6. Gratitude improves self-esteem. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased athletes’ self-esteem, an essential component to optimal performance. Other 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.
     
  7. Gratitude increases mental strength. For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11. Recognizing all that you have to be thankful for —even during the worst times—fosters resilience.

We all have the ability and opportunity to cultivate gratitude. Rather than complain about the things you think you deserve, take a few moments to focus on all that you have. Developing an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the simplest ways to improve your satisfaction with life.


4 reasons gratitude is good for you

By Thanksgiving.comUSA Today

What are you thankful for? Taking time to think about the question can actually be good for your health.

“Research suggests that individuals who feel grateful experience lower blood pressure, improved immune functions, recover more quickly from illness, and can more effectively cope with stress,” explains Shilagh Mirgain, PhD, a health psychologist with UW Health (University of Wisconsin).

“Gratitude has one of the strongest links to mental health, more so than even optimism.” And the benefits can be life-long. A sense of gratitude can reduce the lifetime risk for depression, anxiety and even substance abuse disorders.

But, what does it mean to experience gratitude?

“What we’re talking about is the appreciation for what is valuable and meaningful in life,” explains Mirgain. “And the first step is to begin creating an awareness of what you are grateful for in life.”

Cultivating gratitude

Mirgain explains that cultivating a sense of gratitude involves actively noticing the good things that are occurring in life.

“Feeling grateful allows us to connect to those things that make us feel glad to be alive,” she notes.

Some individuals may refer to the practice as “counting your blessings,” but it is essentially taking the time to acknowledge what is going right for you and your family.

Keep track of your gratitude

Whether you use a journal, share on Facebook, or write on a slip of paper you place in a special jar, Mirgain suggests taking time each day to write down three to five small things you are grateful for.

“Research shows that writing down what you are grateful for is more effective than just thinking the thoughts,” she says.

Mirgain recommends starting out with a daily practice because it is a powerful way to shift perspective. Once you get going, you can transition to at least once a week. The effects remain just as powerful. And, you don’t have to be grateful for significant things.

“It can be small things like your husband doing the dishes, or child picking up toys,” comments Mirgain. “Or, of course, major ones like getting a promotion or a child speaking her first words.”

Finding the positive

As Ella Fitzgerald sang, “Into each life a little rain must fall.” Everyone, at some point, is confronted with difficult and painful situations. And while we can’t always control what happens, we can control how we react.

“A sense of gratitude can actually help us cope with stress and trauma,” says Mirgain. “And from the challenges, we can truly learn a tremendous amount about ourselves.”

When dealing with a challenging situation, Mirgain recommends asking two basic questions, “Ask yourself what you have learned from the situation, and how have you become stronger as a result.”

Finding a sense of gratitude, even during tough times, can help you adjust, and even move on from the situation.

Expressing gratitude to another

Research has shown that one of the greatest contributing factors to overall happiness in life is how much gratitude you show. So in addition to counting the reasons why you are grateful, expressing it outwardly can also have a significant impact on your life.

Whether it is a friend, colleague, family member or acquaintance, we all have someone in our lives who has been a positive influence. Taking a moment to tell them whether in-person, or through a letter, email, text or phone call, will not only make them feel better, but it will benefit you, too. It can also help improve the quality of your relationships.

“Try telling your spouse or children why you are grateful for them,” Mirgain suggests. “You’ll be amazed at the positive influence it can have on the relationship.”

Expressing the things for which you are grateful can take many forms. Whether it is part of a mindfulness practice, or it is a topic of conversation with a friend, the important thing is to find a practice that works for you.

“Mix it up,” Mirgain suggests. “Through art or journaling, meditation or conversation, finding what you are grateful for is a discovery that can lead to profound changes in your life.”


Thanksgiving Day, 1789

“I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”

George Washington, on October 3, 1789, made the following proclamation and created the first Thanksgiving Day designated by the national government of the United States of America.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.” Continue reading


Ronald Reagan’s Thanksgiving Day Messages

“We have seen the splendor of our natural resource spread across the tables of the world, and we have seen the splendor of freedom coursing with new vigor through the channels of history.” 

by Scott L. Vanatter

Ronald Reagan believed in America. He believed in America’s promise. He saw the best in his fellow Americans. We, too, believe in America, its promise, and see the best in our fellows.

At the beginning of our republic, President George Washington declared a Day of Thanksgiving his first year in office. In the midst of the sore trials of a massive Civil War, President Lincoln established a regular Day of Thanksgiving.

In the spirit of his predecessors, and while he tackled serious economic and foreign policy challenges, President Reagan delivered a series of eight Thanksgiving Day messages from 1981 through 1988. He repeated previous presidential calls to “set aside” this special day as one of thanksgiving and prayer to God. Further, he challenged the nation to recall and fulfill their responsibility to “give” to those who are less fortunate. There are those who lacked of the “abundance” which America enjoyed — they do not enjoy the abundance which comes as a result of our industry. Many around the world do not enjoy an “abundance of freedom.” America’s example of freedom is one of the lasting legacies we leave for a world — we are the last best hope of mankind. Reagan reminded us to live up to that legacy. Continue reading


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