Thanksgiving is a special time to reflect on the things we are grateful for in our lives. It’s a time to count our blessings and appreciate the abundance that surrounds us. But did you know that practicing gratitude goes beyond just feeling good? Research shows that gratitude can have a profound impact on our physical, mental, and emotional health.
Understanding the Link Between Gratitude and Health
Gratitude is more than just a positive emotion — it is a mindset and a way of life that can bring about many health benefits. Studies have shown that thoughts and feelings of gratitude can:1
- Lower stress hormones
- Reduce inflammation
- Enhance immunity
- Improve areas of the brain related to empathy and emotional processing … and more.
However, negative emotions, such as pessimism and resentment, can be harmful to our health. They can:2,3
- Fuel inflammation
- Harm our DNA
- Speed up the aging process
- Increase the risk of chronic diseases … and more.
Finding Gratitude During Challenging Times
Practicing appreciation is easy when things are going well in our lives. But what about those challenging times when nothing seems to be going right? It is during these difficult moments that cultivating gratitude becomes even more important. By finding joy in the little things and appreciating what we do have — despite the chaos in life — we can shift our perspective.
During the holiday season, when stress levels can be particularly high, it is essential to find time for yourself and focus on your feelings and emotions. Whether it’s through meditation, taking a walk in nature, or engaging in self-care practices, giving yourself space to feel grateful can have a profound impact on your mental and emotional health.
The Motivational Power of Gratitude
Gratitude also serves as a powerful motivator for personal growth and transformation. Living in a state of appreciation helps us tap into a deeper sense of purpose and meaning in our lives. It is through this that we find the motivation to work toward our own well-being and the well-being of others.
It is important to note that finding motivation during challenging times doesn’t mean ignoring or suppressing our true feelings — it means being honest with ourselves about our frustrations and hardships while still finding the strength and resilience to move forward. By allowing ourselves to experience the full range of emotions and embracing the peeling process, we can uncover our inner truths and find opportunities for healing and growth.
Motivation is also rooted in our interconnectedness with others. Recognizing that all beings want the same thing – happiness and freedom from suffering – allows us to tap into a deeper well of motivation and compassion. By cutting through our attachments and aversions, as well as finding greater love and compassion for ourselves and others, we can generate authentic motivation to benefit ourselves and the world around us.4 This detachment from our circumstances doesn’t mean denying or minimizing our challenges — it means recognizing that we are not defined by our illnesses or circumstances.
Inspiring Stories of Healing and Transformation
In the face of illness and adversity, many individuals have experienced a deeper appreciation for life, increased awareness, and a greater capacity for love and compassion. This shows that illness is not a failure but an opportunity for growth and self-discovery. True healing is not just about following a specific health program— it is about tapping into our innate healing abilities and overflowing with unconditional love and gratitude, helping ourselves and everyone around us.
Incorporating Gratitude into Your Life
Cultivating a gratitude practice doesn’t have to be complicated. It can start with simple daily rituals that help us shift our focus towards gratitude. One powerful practice is to write down three things you are grateful for each day. This daily spiritual exercise allows you to review your life from a grateful heart and helps your mind, body, and spirit heal on every level.
Additionally, incorporating mindfulness and meditation into your routine can enhance your ability to experience gratitude. By grounding yourself in the present moment and adopting an attitude of openness and appreciation, you can cultivate a deeper sense of gratitude and well-being.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving and enter the holiday season, remember to take time for yourself this holiday season, practice gratitude, and extend love and compassion to all beings. Wishing you a safe, happy, and vibrant Thanksgiving and winter holidays!
You may also like:
- Lilian Jans-Beken, Nele Jacobs, Mayke Janssens, et al. Gratitude and health: An updated review. The Journal of Positive Psychology. 2020; 15:6, 743-782.
- Pascoe, Michaela & Thompson, David & Ski, Chantal. Meditation and Endocrine Health and Wellbeing. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2020;31.
- Scheier, MF, Swanson, JD, Barlow, MA, et al. Optimism versus pessimism as predictors of physical health: A comprehensive reanalysis of dispositional optimism research. Am Psychol. 2021 Apr;76(3):529-548.
- Man, Yea Ho, Everett Worthington, Richard Cowden, et al. International REACH Forgiveness Intervention: A Multi-Site Randomized Controlled Trail. Pre-print study, Forgiveness: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (April 20–22, 2023) 10.31219/osf.io/8qzgw