Keep the Thanks in Thanksgiving to Improve Your Health - Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare

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Published on November 16, 2015

Tips for Keeping the "Thanks" in Thanksgiving

By Reverend Traci Houts, Chaplain

At Thanksgiving time, we can focus so much on our preparations for the meal that we forget it really is about giving thanks. We have to plan the menu, shop for groceries, cook the turkey, clean the house … and the list goes on.

It is too easy in our busy lives to neglect the spiritual discipline of being grateful.

People Who Practice Gratitude are Happier

Research actually shows that people who practice gratitude are healthier and happier than those who do not. At the website www.gratefulness.org, there are a number of articles and resources that show this connection. Dr. Michael McCullough of the University of Miami and Dr. Robert Emmons of the University of California, Davis are two researchers investigating the effects of practicing gratitude. They conducted a study in which they had three control groups:

  • A gratitude group
  • A hassle group
  • A neutral group

The gratitude group kept a daily gratitude journal in which they recorded what they were thankful for while the hassle group kept a daily journal where they tracked little annoyances and hassles they had experienced during the day. Finally, there was a neutral group that did neither of those things.

Dr. Emmon’s and Dr. McCullough’s studies have shown that regularly and deliberately expressing appreciation and genuine thankfulness improves health and well-being.

Study participants who kept gratitude journals and practiced self-guided exercises slept better, exercised more, experienced increased positive emotions, progressed toward personal goals more quickly and helped others more often.

5 Tips for Cultivating an "Attitude of Gratitude"

Here are some tips on how to cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” in your life:

  1. Keep a daily gratitude journal. Record 5 things every day that you are grateful for.
  2. Affirm one person every day. Choose one individual each day and tell them what you appreciate about them. Send an e-mail, write a note of thanks, tell them in person.
  3. Pick an e-mail “gratitude friend.” Talk to a close friend about partnering with you to be more grateful. At the end of every day, exchange e-mails with one or two things that you were grateful for during the day.
  4. Use the gift of your senses. For each day of the week, use a sense to notice all the blessings in your world and with intention, give thanks for them. On Monday, pay attention to all of the beauty in the world that your eyes see. On Tuesday, pay attention to all the wonderful sounds that your ears hear. On Wednesday, pay attention to all of the pleasurable smells around you. On Thursday, pay attention to the gift of taste. On Friday, pay attention to our connections with one another expressed through our sense of touch.
  5. Practice gratitude for learning and growth. Make a list of the 10 most influential people in your life. It will probably turn out to be a list of family, friends, teachers and mentors. Then next to each name, write down what life-lesson you learned from that person. Take it a step further and send that individual a letter telling them of the gift that you received from them.

For more healthy tips, visit our Health Library. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Keep the Thanks in Thanksgiving to Improve Your Health