The month of Novem­ber has a cen­tral focus on the hol­i­day, Thanks­giv­ing. Linked with this hol­i­day is the emo­tion of grat­i­tude. We want to take a clos­er look at this emo­tion and see how it is linked to bet­ter health and give you some prac­ti­cal tips on how to increase the size of your grat­i­tude bucket.

The Def­i­n­i­tion of Gratitude

The emo­tion of grat­i­tude is defined as “the qual­i­ty of being thank­ful; readi­ness to show appre­ci­a­tion for and to return kind­ness.” We are famil­iar with the act of “thank you” to rep­re­sent grat­i­tude, but it also includes think­ing on pos­i­tive things that have hap­pened dur­ing the day or your life, med­i­tat­ing on pos­i­tive thoughts, and feel­ing grateful.

The Health of Gratitude

Beyond mak­ing some­one feel appre­ci­at­ed, grat­i­tude also has oth­er ben­e­fits. In fact, there are phys­i­cal health ben­e­fits asso­ci­at­ed with the act of grat­i­tude. The Greater Good Sci­ence Cen­ter pro­duced a list of ben­e­fits to grat­i­tude.

For the individual:

  • increased hap­pi­ness and pos­i­tive mood
  • more sat­is­fac­tion with life
  • less mate­ri­al­is­tic
  • less like­ly to expe­ri­ence burnout
  • bet­ter phys­i­cal health
  • bet­ter sleep
  • less fatigue
  • low­er lev­els of cel­lu­lar inflammation
  • greater resilien­cy
  • encour­ages the devel­op­ment of patience, humil­i­ty, and wisdom

In addi­tion to these above ben­e­fits, psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly, the act of grat­i­tude has been shown to reduce tox­ic emo­tions like envy, frus­tra­tion, resent­ment, and regret. Those who focus on grat­i­tude have even been report­ed to vis­it the doc­tor less!

The Act of Gratitude

So, how do you prac­tice grat­i­tude in your every­day life? Here are some easy-to-do exer­cis­es to strength­en your grat­i­tude muscles:

  • Say thank you
  • Keep a grat­i­tude journal
  • Write hand­writ­ten thank-you notes
  • Think/meditate on pos­i­tive thoughts
  • Smile!
  • Put sticky notes around your home and work­space to remind you to be grateful

By prac­tic­ing grat­i­tude, you are not only sow­ing pos­i­tiv­i­ty in someone’s heart, you are also reap­ing health rewards like low­er blood pres­sure and decreased lev­els of stress and depres­sion. This sim­ple act, that we’ve all been taught since we were born (Moms always remind you to say, “thank you!”), has far-reach­ing ben­e­fits so start flex­ing your mus­cles of grat­i­tude today.