• Many of us celebrate Thanksgiving by helping ourselves to a plate stacked high with turkey, potatoes, green beans, and pumpkin pie—but the holiday isn’t just for eating delicious food!
  • The whole point of Thanksgiving is to give thanks for all of your fortunes such as the incredible people in your life or the roof over your head.
  • Another word for giving thanks is gratitude: practice gratitude and you’ll witness first-hand a variety of benefits on your health.
  • For one, practicing gratitude can help your body and your mind stay healthier: studies have shown that those who practice gratitude experience fewer “aches and pains” and are more likely to engage in healthy activities.
  • Additionally, studies have shown that gratitude can help you sleep better and lead to new (exciting) relationships.
  • Finally, practicing gratitude causes us to empathize more with others and gives our self-esteem a boost.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, many of us are looking forward to a much-needed day off of work and plate stacked high with turkey and pumpkin pie aplenty. We’re not saying there’s anything wrong with that—we’re just here to remind you what Thanksgiving is really all about: being thankful and showing your appreciation.

We’re all guilty of taking things for granted—which is exactly why we need a holiday dedicated to the very purpose of not just acknowledging our fortunes but putting our gratitude on display. Think about it: Is there a roof over your head? Is there someone who loves and cares about you? Do you have some awesome people in your life? Are you alive right now? I know you answered yes to at least one of those questions. So you, my friend, have something to be thankful for and a reason to practice gratitude. And if that’s not enough to convince you, maybe the fact that being grateful is beneficial to your health will incite a change of heart!

That’s right, being grateful and practicing gratitude is scientifically-proven to have a positive impact on your health, in multiple capacities. Let us count the ways:

1) Gratitude improves your physical health… A recent study “Examining the Pathways between Gratitude and Self-Rated Physical Health across Adulthood” in Personality and Individual Differences found a strong link between physical health and gratitude. This study analyzed nearly 1,000 different people and discovered that grateful people experience fewer aches and pains, feel healthier than others, exercise more often, and are more likely to consult a doctor with health concerns.

2) And your psychological health too! The aforementioned study also attributes the greater physical health to an improved psychological health. In sum, better psychological health makes individuals more likely to engage in healthy activities (like exercising) and to seek out medical help when needed. Are you saying your thanks yet?

3) It can help you sleep better. Another study “Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions” found that the most grateful participants had better sleep quality, were able to fall asleep more easily, and also felt less tired during the day. While I’m sure all of us could use a little extra shut eye, this finding is especially significant to those with mental illness, as disturbed sleep is linked to a wide variety of conditions and improved sleep tends to alleviate them.

4) It can help you foster new relationships. As you can see, expressing gratitude can benefit you physically and psychologically, but the benefits don’t stop there—expressing gratitude can benefit you socially as well! A study “Warm thanks: gratitude expression facilitates social affiliation in new relationships via perceived warmth” says that showing gratitude makes others perceive you as a good potential friend and more likely to actively seek out a friendship with you. So, don’t forget to thank your colleague for his help or your date for opening the door—it could help you establish a new and exciting relationship.

5) It enhances empathy and lessens aggression. According to a study from 2011, “A Grateful Heart is a Nonviolent Heart,” gratitude doesn’t just inspire us to empathize with and help others, but it also causes us to be less aggressive. Cross-sectional, longitudinal, experience sampling, and other experimental designs led to this conclusion—which means you should start expressing your gratitude right away if you want to reap these benefits!

6) It can improve your self-esteem. A study “The relationships among gratitude, self-esteem, depression, and suicidal ideation among undergraduate students” analyzed the links between gratitude, self-esteem, depression, and suicidal ideation, through examining 815 different participants. After administering four different tests, the researchers found that gratitude had a positive direct effect on all three of the aforementioned factors—in particular, individuals with more gratitude had higher self-esteem.

These scientifically-proven benefits of showing gratitude warrant reason to be grateful for all of your fortunes and blessings this Thanksgiving, as well as every other day. Not only will you show your loved ones how much they really mean to you, but you’ll also do some good for your own overall wellbeing. Okay, now you’re free to go pile on the turkey, the potatoes, the pie, and the cranberry sauce—but don’t forget to give thanks! And have a very happy Thanksgiving.