Thanksgiving will no doubt look very different this year. Smaller family gatherings, less travel and Zoom dinners may be the way we celebrate in 2020. But even though this year has been terrible for so many, one thing we can (and should) still do is feel and express gratitude.
Research shows that gratitude, or the thankful appreciation for what we have and receive, is good both for our physical and mental health. It is an important component of a happy and fulfilling life and is consistently linked with feeling more positive emotions, savoring positive experiences, having better health, dealing effectively with adversity, and building strong relationships.
A study conducted several years ago found that people who kept a “gratitude journal” were more optimistic, exercised more, and had fewer doctor visits than those who focused on things that displeased them. Individuals who wrote a letter of gratitude to a person who had benefited them, but whom they had not thanked, and delivered it, were happier and less depressed afterward. Grateful people, including war veterans, report fewer PTSD symptoms following trauma.
Gratitude enhances positive emotions by focusing on the enjoyment of benefits. It leads to adaptive coping strategies by making sense of stressful events. Gratitude increases the accessibility to positive memories, which in turn, support one’s well-being. Grateful people are more likely to seek less and appreciate and care for what they have.
So have a happy Thanksgiving and practice gratitude!