Why Giving Thanks Makes Us Healthier and Happier

Every year, as the holidays roll around, it’s easy for us to get wrapped up in the flurry of activity. Visits from family members and friends, or the lack thereof, can make us feel overwhelmed, under a ton of pressure, and yet ever so lonely. These feelings are only exacerbated by the ever increasing standard of perfection reiterated through the social media that has infiltrated our lives.

In these circumstances, it’s more important than ever to find time to take care of ourselves. Whether you’re a student or an employee or on your way to world domination, everyone can use a little TLC this holiday season. Apart from the typical self-care practices that we’ve written about before, we want to use this time of the year to practice gratitude. As it turns out, gratitude helps with just about everything. Emotionally, we are more relaxed and kinder. Socially, our relationships improve. Personally, we are more selfless and optimistic. Mentally and physically, we are healthier by being grateful.

What is there to be thankful for?

The short answer is: everything. Just like how beauty lies in the eyes of its beholder, gratitude lies in the mind of its beholder. It is a lens through which we can see the world. Even when things are rocky and aren’t going expected, we can find something to appreciate in the detail. To help you get started, we outlined a short list:

  1. People – the people that make a difference in your life. It can be friends, family, or coworkers. It can be teachers, mentors, or students. Maybe it’s even the barista who gets your coffee order just right every morning. It’s never too late or too weird to give them a call to simply say: thank you.
  2. Places – the places that make us feel at home. Whether it’s a warm bed at night or a special nook in the library, the places that disarm us are important. When you walk into a space, notice the smell and the sounds. Appreciate how the light hits the space. There is beauty in everything around us.
  3. Items – the things that bring us joy. It can be a book, a guitar, or an old photo. Whatever brings happy memories and feelings for you. Embrace it and be grateful the next time you see it.

Our high level list is a starter, but we hope it gives you something to think about as we approach Thanksgiving (in the US) next week. Take the opportunity to reflect. What do you have to be thankful for?

Express your gratitude

It turns out, expressing gratitude multiplies its effect on our health and happiness. Admittedly, we couldn’t find any scientific studies around this, but we have found it to be anecdotally true. Showing gratitude helps others feel happier as well, so it is a shame to keep it all bottled up. We’ll leave you with a quote:

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
-William Arthur Ward

Happy Thanksgiving!

This post was written by Cathy Liu. Please send any questions or concerns to content@subconscious.org.

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