This time of year, we start to think about what we’re thankful for. But gratitude is something that should be a part of our everyday lives. It’s important to practice gratitude daily, instead of a quick “I’m thankful for…” once a year around the Thanksgiving table.
But what makes gratitude so important to begin with? Studies indicate that it has powerful effects not only on our psychological wellbeing, but has physical and social benefits as well.
Physical benefits of being grateful. In studies conducted for more than a decade, one researcher found that people who are continually grateful report stronger immune systems, fewer aches and pains, lowered blood pressure, more restful sleep, and take better care of themselves through dieting and exercise.
Psychological benefits of being grateful. Beyond the physical benefits, being thankful also has a powerful effect on the human brain. Studies show that gratitude enhances mental health by reducing toxic emotions like envy, resentment, frustration, and regret. It also eases aggression and improves empathy.
Social benefits of being grateful. Saying “thank you” is not only polite; it may even foster new or improved relationships with others. One study found that simply thanking someone made him or her more likely to seek an ongoing friendship with you. Socially, people who practice gratefulness are more helpful, generous, compassionate, forgiving, outgoing, and feel less lonely and isolated.
It’s obvious that gratefulness is important, but how do you start practicing it more in your life, incorporating it into your daily routine? Here are a few simple steps to boost your gratitude this season and all year long.
Write it down. Even if it’s just finding one thing you’re grateful for each day, try starting each morning writing down what you’re thankful for. Keep a “grateful” journal—it creates a fun keepsake to look back on over the years.
Show it. Too often we have feelings of gratitude—for a well-spoken compliment from a stranger or toward your spouse for doing the dishes or your kids for bringing you a bouquet of dandelions—but often, we’re hesitant to express our gratitude. Start getting audible about how you feel, with both family members and strangers.
Encourage others. When a person is truly grateful, they can’t help but encourage others to be as well. Compliment strangers, thank others, and encourage those who need it.
Gratitude can be expressed in both big and small ways and must be daily cultivated, especially during difficult times. True gratitude helps get you through dark days by focusing on the things you have in life. It helps you stay present and discourages discontentment.
This holiday season embrace true gratitude—gratitude that spills over to every other day of your year and into the New Year.
 Emmons, R. (2010). Why gratitude is good. Retrieved from http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_gratitude_is_good
 Morin, A. (2014). 7 scientifically proven benefits of gratitude that will motivate you to give thanks year-round. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/11/23/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-gratitude-that-will-motivate-you-to-give-thanks-year-round/
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