From Thanksgiving to ThanksLiving – 10 Reasons Why You Should Practice Gratitude Year Round
Dr. John Schinnerer
Ahh, Thanksgiving, a wonderful time of the year to show gratitude to loved ones. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about – giving thanks?! Yet what if we shift the idea from ThanksGiving to ThanksLiving? What if we shifted our thinking from being grateful occasionally to being grateful continuously? What then?
Well, the scientific results are in and they are overwhelmingly in favor of learning to cultivate a daily practice of gratitude.
One of my favorite books which I loan out to clients (and am grateful when it gets returned!) is Emmons’ Little Book of Gratitude.
Dr. Robert Emmons is one of the world’s leading experts in gratitude, having studied it for over 10 years. Dr. Emmons is a professor of psychology at UC Davis and is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology.
On the topic of gratitude, Dr. Emmons states, “Gratitude journals and other gratitude practices often seem so simple and basic and yet in our studies of over 1,000 people who kept journals for only three weeks, the results were overwhelming.”
Many “new research studies are examining the effects of gratitude on health outcomes using state-of-the-art biomarkers of health and aging,” he says. “Clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep which is a huge issue in today’s society.”
“It also reduces lifetime risk for depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders. In the latest findings, gratitude has been associated with higher levels of good cholesterol or HDL, lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower levels of c-reactive protein which is a marker of inflammation indicating heart disease.”
So here are 10 of the top reasons to practice gratitude daily (from The Little Book of Gratitude)…
- Keeping a diary for two weeks in which you write down three things per day for which you are grateful produced sustained reductions in perceived stress (by 28%) and in depression (16%) in healthcare practitioners.
- The regular practice of gratitude is linked to a 23% lower level of stress hormones (cortisol).
- Two gratitude practices such as counting your blessings and writing gratitude letters reduced the risk of depression in high risk patients by a massive 41% over a six month trial.
- Dietary fat intake is reduced by as much as 25 percent in people keeping a gratitude journal. So you eat better when you are grateful and appreciative!
- Grateful people have 16 percent lower diastolic blood pressure and 10 percent lower systolic blood pressure compared to those less grateful.
- Grateful people have between 9-13% lower levels of hemoglobin A1C, a key marker of glucose control that plays a significant role in the diagnosis of diabetes.
- Gratitude led to a 10 percent improvement in sleep quality in patients with chronic pain (76 percent of whom had insomnia).
- Writing a single letter of gratitude reduced feelings of hopelessness in 88% of suicidal patients and increased levels of optimism in 94%.
- When couples wrote about how their lives would have been different had they never met their spouse, they had a significant boost in happiness.
- Gratitude is a way of seeing that alters that which we gaze upon. In other words, the more you practice it, the more you begin to see the good in the bad. And since everything contains both good and bad within it, this practice helps us to become more optimistic and resilient as we learn to see the good in everything.
So this Thanksgiving, make a point of beginning your daily habit of gratitude. Start a gratitude journal and note down three things for which you are grateful. Write a gratitude letter to someone whom you’ve never properly thanked. Switch your focus off yourself and onto others; by focusing on the kind deeds of others your appreciate others for longer periods of time. Focus on what you have and not what you lack. And, by all means, make sure you spend time around your friends.