According to Cambridge Dictionary, gratitude is defined as “a strong feeling of appreciation to someone or something for what the person has done to help you”. The holiday season lends itself to expressing gratitude, probably more so than any other time during the year. One regular practice my family engages in over Thanksgiving is going around the dinner table and sharing things we are thankful for prior to eating. It’s a tradition that everyone looks forward to because not only does it help set the tone for the rest of the day. It redirects our focus onto what the day is all about…appreciation and thanksgiving.
Did you know when we practice an “attitude of gratitude”, not only do we encourage others but we reap the many benefits too? There is countless research available documenting the positive impacts on our health and well-being. Time Health identified the following seven benefits of gratitude in their November 20, 2017 magazine.
- Gratitude can make you more patient. Research from Northeastern University has found that people who felt grateful for little, everyday things were more patient and better able to make sensible decisions compared to those who didn’t feel very gracious on a day-to-day basis.
- Gratitude might improve your relationship. According to a study in the Journal of Theoretical Social Psychology, feeling grateful toward your partner – and vice versa-can improve numerous aspects of your relationship, including feelings of connectedness and overall satisfaction as a couple.
- Gratitude improves self-care. In a study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, researchers asked people to rate their levels of gratitude, physical health and psychological health, as well as how likely they were to do wellbeing-boosting behaviors like exercise, healthy eating and going to the doctor. They found positive correlations between gratitude and each of these behaviors, suggesting that giving thanks helps people appreciate and care for their bodies.
- Gratitude can help you sleep. Research in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research has found that feeling grateful helps people sleep better and longer.
- Gratitude may stop you from overeating. “Gratitude replenishes willpower,” says Susan Peirce Thompson, a cognitive scientist who specializes in the psychology of eating. The concept is similar to the Northeastern research that found a connection between gratitude and patience: Thompson says cultivating feelings of gratitude can boost your impulse control, helping you slow down and make better decisions.
- Gratitude can help ease depression. Thompson says experiments have shown that people who partake in the “three good things” exercise – which, as the name suggests, prompts people to think of three good moments or things that happened that day-see considerable improvements in depression and overall happiness, sometimes in as little as a couple weeks.
- Gratitude gives you happiness that lasts. Lots of things, from a compliment to a sugary treat, can bring little bursts of happiness. Instant gratification also goes away quickly, which leaves you craving more. Gratitude is a frame of mind that if you regularly take time to express gratitude, then you’re more likely to see results.
This holiday season I would like to challenge you to cultivate gratitude! Start by just paying attention to the good around you, acknowledge it, and appreciate it. I think Maya Angelou said it best, “This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen it before”.