by Patrick Glass
What are you grateful for?
Thanksgiving is a holiday that evokes reflection and appreciation. People often take time during Thanksgiving to contemplate the positive people, things, and experiences in their lives.
What many you may not know, however, is that gratitude is an established therapeutic practice for increasing personal happiness and wellbeing.
In a 2003 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology study, researchers demonstrated that regularly making gratitude lists improved positive affect and generated “emotional and interpersonal benefits” for study participants.
A 2010 study from the National Institute of Mental Health found that expressing gratitude to a significant-other or partner leads to “increases in relationship connection and satisfaction.”
With significant academic findings such as these, it’s easy to see why gratitude has started to become a staple of therapeutic practice and wellness planning, including the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP). Popular publications have jumped on the gratitude bandwagon as well, including Time magazine, Buzzfeed, and the New York Times.
Yet, the actual cognitive mechanism behind the benefits of gratitude is somewhat unclear. One journal study found that performing gratitude exercises before bed leads to improved and longer sleep, suggesting that feeling grateful boosts the body’s relaxation response.
Whatever the science behind gratitude’s healthy effect on the human mind, it is evident that we could all benefit from thinking more about thanksgiving.
Interested in learning more about gratitude? Here are some additional resources, tools, and tips:
- Bliss: a gratitude journal that works on your phone. (bliss31.com)
- “6 Surprising Reasons Why Gratitude is Great for Your Health” (realsimple.com)
- “The Science of Gratitude: 26 Studies and Counting” (happierhuman.com)
- Review of “Gratitude” a book by Oliver Sacks (washingtonpost.com)