Thanksgiving is the time of year when we slow down, enjoy a meal with friends and family, and express thanks for all that we have.
But we shouldn’t delegate our gratitude to just one day. Practicing gratitude year-round can help us grow, both inside and out.
The Science Behind Saying Thanks
Studies have found that learning to count your blessings leads to a better life. It can improve mental and emotional well-being, as well as improve your creativity, productivity, and even grow your business. And those benefits grow the more we practice gratitude.
One study conducted by the University of Indiana found that expressing gratitude can have long-term benefits on neural activity; leading to a healthier, more optimistic outlook on life and a decrease in depression.
As Dr. Christian Jarrett, editor of the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest blog, explains to New York Magazine: “the more practice you give your brain at feeling and expressing gratitude, the more it adapts to this mindset — you could even think of your brain as having a sort of gratitude ‘muscle’ that can be exercised and strengthened.”
And that’s not all. According to Amy Morin, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, thankfulness can:
- Create an opportunity for new relationships and improve current relationships.
- Get you a better night of sleep.
- Improve self-esteem.
- Decrease aggression and build empathy.
Creating an Attitude of Gratitude
Extending the “thanks” beyond Thanksgiving has great benefits. Here are some scientifically-backed ways to help create a lasting mindset of gratitude.
- Write thank-you notes. It not only helps a person express gratitude but it also builds better relationships. A little note can go a long way in recognizing your appreciation for someone.
- Keep a journal. A daily or weekly journal is a way to keep you thinking about the things you’re thankful for. And it’s something you can always go back and read to remind yourself of the things in life to be happy about. According to one study for Emmons Lab, a daily gratitude journal can lead to “higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, and energy.”
- Count your blessings. Literally. Set aside a weekly time to mentally make note of what you’re thankful for that week. Even better — you can write little notes for yourself and keep them in a jar to reread at Thanksgiving next year.
- Pray or meditate. Prayer and meditation are effective ways to take a moment to slow down and appreciate the little things in our life.
- Volunteer or pay it forward. Volunteering is a win-win for everyone. It helps those in need in our communities and helps us to appreciate what we normally might take for granted. Find an opportunity to volunteer at a food service, clothing drive, or other charity event. The Tuesday after Thanksgiving is known as Giving Tuesday, and it’s a great time to get into the charitable season. Giving back also could include smaller acts of paying it forward, such as paying for someone behind you in line at a drive-through.
Learning to be thankful every day can be life changing. Perhaps the mentality of thankfulness is best described by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s lesson: “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
What are you most thankful for this year? Share with us in the comments below!