Can Being Thankful Improve Your Health?
Thanksgiving, the holiday that reminds us to count our blessings, is right around the corner.
It’s a time we look forward to and cherish—we take a break from the normal routines of life, gather family and close friends around the dinner table, and enjoy a bounty of good food and fellowship. And it’s a time when most of us take a moment to give thanks. Turns out, taking time to be thankful can do wonders for our health and well being.
Daily Stressors Taking A Toll
Day in and day out, when we turn on the radio, TV, or scan the internet headlines, we’re bombarded with negativity and what’s wrong in the world. It’s no wonder stress is an ongoing problem for so many—60% to 90% of all doctor visits are stress related.
Chronic stress, caused by ongoing negative emotions, can weaken your body’s immune response and increase the likelihood of illness and disease.
What if there were a magic potion that could reduce stress, improve your mood, and improve your sense of well being? Turns out, there is. According to researchers at John Hopkins University, positive emotions, like gratitude, have stress-reducing, health-bolstering effects on your health, even if heart disease runs in your family.
That’s right. In spite of known risk factors, those with a positive outlook were one-third less likely to have a heart attack or other cardiovascular event within 5–25 years than those with a negative outlook.
Get The Most Out of Being Thankful
So how can you get some of the positive health benefits out of being thankful? Thanksgiving is a good time to focus on what’s good around us, and taking a moment to give thanks and having a positive outlook on life can be the key to maintaining health and happiness.
It’s important for our mental and physical well being to find practical ways to be optimistic and grateful every day of the year. And it’s easier to do than you thought. Why not get started this Thanksgiving, and practice these six ideas year-round?
6 Practical Ways to Sow Gratitude Into Your Life
1. Count your blessings. It sounds like a cliché but the act of saying aloud or jotting down several different things that you are thankful for on a daily basis is a great start. Keep a gratitude journal to reflect on each day. Take a moment to consider the things and people who have enriched your life. Even something as simple as “my dog Chewy makes me smile” is enough.
2. Give and say thanks often. Even the simple act of saying “thank you” to the store employee who bagged your groceries can provide you with positive feelings.
3. Put gratitude into action. Share from your abundance or abilities with those unable to return the act of kindness. Donate clothes, school supplies, or dry goods to a charity, rake an elderly person’s yard, take soup to a sick friend, offer to babysit for a neighbor. You get the idea.
4. Make “Giving Thanks” cards as a family project and hand-deliver them to neighbors, postman, delivery driver, store clerk, and church or club members. Let each person know how much you appreciate them. Just the idea of making someone’s day is enough to put a smile on your face. Get the kids involved!
5. Smile, joke, and laugh more. Whether you feel like it or not, smiling and laughing in stressful situations reduces blood pressure and heart rate. Being able to laugh at yourself, smile, or think about something funny goes a long way in reducing emotional stress, and maintaining hope.
6. Relish the moment. Enjoy and be thankful for the simple pleasures in your life, whether it’s appreciating a gorgeous fall sunset, a warm mug of apple cider, or a hug from a friend.
Are there special ways in which you find ways to give thanks? Share with us in the comments below.