Another Reason to Be Grateful: Thanksgiving

If you’re looking for something more to be grateful for this week, you might want to start with Thanksgiving.  This American holiday allows us to devote an entire day to gratitude, a practice linked to both physical and emotional well-being, according to scientific research. Scientists in the relatively new field of positive psychology have found that grateful people are happier, less stressed in mind and body and are ultimately healthier.

How can just being grateful and expressing gratitude have such positive effects?

“Gratitude is conducive to resilience and the capacity to cope with stress,” says Rev. Guillermo Escalona, director of pastoral education at Baptist Health South Florida. “It helps us to bounce back from hardships and avoid seeing crises or difficult events as terrible problems.”

What is stress?

Stress is actually the brain’s response to any demand, says the National Institute of Mental Health. In short doses, chemicals and hormones released in the body may prepare you to face a life-threatening situation and even boost your immune system.  However, prolonged or regular release of these chemicals and hormones can lower immunity, and cause our reproductive, digestive and excretory systems to malfunction. For people suffering from constant stress, the body’s response continues even after the threat is gone.  

Chronic stress contributes to high blood pressure, heart problems, depression, skin conditions, asthma, headaches and other ailments. A poll of family and primary physicians found that 75 to 90 percent of doctor visits are for problems related to stress. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stress is also a workplace hazard costing American companies more than $300 billion a year.

Day of gratitude or day of stress?

Despite the poignant history of Thanksgiving, the joy of seeing family and friends and the image of tables laden with favorite holiday dishes, the national day of gratitude can quickly become a day of stress.

Holiday travel, the work of preparing and cleaning up after enormous meals and family tensions, can also overshadow the point of the day – robbing us of a giant dose of joy and well-being.

These tips for practicing gratitude can make your holiday and every day more meaningful for you and your family, while helping keep you healthier.

  • Practice gratefulness for small things. Be thankful for  a parking spot, the taste of ice cream, a green traffic light and other small perks.
  • Journal, tweet, text, post. Gratitude journaling puts the events of our lives into perspective. In the age of social media, Rev. Escalona says, sharing our gratitude with friends and family through social media can spread the sense of the well-being.   
  • Approach stressful work situations and colleagues with gratitude. “Begin to be, as Gandhi said, the change you want to see in the world. Express gratitude to coworkers, clients, customers, patients and families,”  Rev. Escalona says. “You’ll begin to give wings to the soul. You become an accomplice of virtue.”
  • Focus on being grateful for the good in each person. Difficult relationships with family members? You find what you’re looking for. Seek reasons to be grateful.
  • Add a new Thanksgiving tradition. Rather than simply giving thanks for the food, express personal words of gratitude for the people around the table. Not only will it add joy to the holiday, but strong family relationships are also linked to mental and physical well-being.  




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