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  • Dr. Henry J. Svec

What Science Tells Us About Giving Thanks

As many of us sit down to big Thanksgiving dinners this weekend, I wonder if many indeed reflect on that which they are thankful for, or if most are celebrating out of tradition, obligation, or some other reason. When people post on social media about what they’re thankful for, are they really sitting down to reflect on it, or just jumping on the hash-tag bandwagon? While it is certainly important to remember the historical significance of Thanksgiving, it is also important to understand how impactful giving thanks really is.

Incorporating gratitude into daily life can have a significant impact on one’s mental and physical health. In fact, research tells us that you can actually positively impact neural activity in the brain by exercising gratitude on a regular basis, not to mention that a significantly greater and long lasting sensitivity to gratitude is developed.

So what does this actually mean in real life? Well, people who have learned to exercise gratitude are shown to be generally happier, physically healthier, more resilient, have a greater degree of mental toughness, and have lower rates of anxiety and depression. What’s great about it too, is that once you get the hang of it and it becomes automatic, the more effective and long-lasting it becomes.

A simple exercise to get you started:

At the end of each day for the next 30 days, grab a journal or notebook, write down the date at the top of the page, and write down three things you were grateful about that day. These things can be big or small, about people, things, what you ate, who you talked to—anything. The goal here is to focus on those things that made today great. This exercise is especially important on those crummy days where it feels like nothing went right. Give this a try today—you’ll thank me.

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