Thanksgiving: Being Grateful Is Good for Your Mental Health

Thanksgiving is about more than oven-roasted turkey, pumpkin pie, and football. It is a chance to take a pause and express gratitude for the people and gifts in our life that enrich us.

But expressing gratitude isn't just a holiday tradition, it promotes mental health awareness and good health. More than 90 percent of teens and adults said expressing gratitude made them feel a sense of happiness. 

Being thankful for your health, stability, relationships, and even the air you breathe benefits your overall well-being. There is a direct link between gratitude and mental health. So, why is that? 

In this article, we'll take a look at how feeling grateful benefits you.

Mental Health Awareness and Gratitude

Being grateful has physical effects on the brain. It directly impacts how the brain functions.

Giving and receiving gratitude signals the brain to release dopamine and serotonin. There's a direct impact on our emotions. It makes us feel good instantly. 

In a way, gratitude is a natural antidepressant because it influences the brain in the same way. Much like exercising a muscle, the brain will eventually get used to this state. That is why it is beneficial to practice gratitude regularly.

Gratitude benefits the mind and body in a variety of ways. By being thankful this holiday season, you will experience any of the following effects of gratitude. 

Alleviate Symptoms of Depression

There is a direct correlation between gratitude and mental health. 

Grateful people focus on the gifts they have been given in their life, rather than the things they don't have. By being appreciative regularly, you reframe the mind. 

By being thankful for your health, the food on your table, or the relationships around you, you can overpower the cynical inner voice inside you. 

By embracing positivity and gratitude, you are less likely to feel anxious or stressed. You are therefore far less likely to feel depressed. Practicing gratitude helps mental health.

Lower Stress Levels 

The holidays are a very stressful time. You are likely juggling large family gatherings, excessive spending, and busy schedules. Being thankful helps you stay calm.

Studies also show gratitude reduces levels of the stress hormone, cortisol by as much as 23 percent.

Gratitude benefits moods. Practicing gratitude regularly dramatically decreases stress levels. It allows you to take a moment to breathe and reflect on what is going on around you.  

Boost the Immune System by Being Grateful

Setting aside time to be thankful also boosts the immune system. You will avoid seasonal colds and the flu spreading around the Thanksgiving dinner table this year by practicing gratitude. 

Gratitude increases an overall sense of optimism and emotion that has been linked to higher numbers of blood cells

Improve Sleep With Gratitude

Just like the tryptophan in the Thanksgiving turkey makes you feel sleepy, gratitude promotes the quality of sleep. Research suggests that grateful people get a better night of sleep.

It's believed this is because gratitude leads to positive thoughts. And positive thoughts help to calm the nervous system, which leads to more uninterrupted rest.

Those who sleep more are also less likely to be anxious or depressed, so being grateful benefits good health in several ways.

Overcome Trauma by Being Grateful

Gratitude also helps people overcome trauma. 

Trauma often replays in the brain. Over time, it prevents people from appreciating the positive things going on around them. By being gracious, you silence negative thoughts.

Instead, negative thoughts or feelings of anxiety are replaced with positive affirmations. This lowers tensions and helps calm nerves.

Lower Blood Pressure 

Giving thanks also improves heart health. 

Research shows that in addition to lowering stress and opting for a healthier diet, practicing gratitude lowers blood pressure. It is also believed to reduce inflammation.

Studies showed that those with cardiovascular disease improved their condition when they practiced gratitude regularly. 

So this Thanksgiving, add a side of gratitude to your steamed vegetables and roasted brussels sprouts.

Lower Aggression and Irritability

Prepare yourself for less holiday drama with family and friends. Being mentally strong helps you avoid negative confrontations. 

Studies show that grateful people are generally less irritable. They experience fewer feelings of frustration, aggression, or jealousy.

People who practice gratitude regularly are more skilled at regulating their emotions. They are also more appreciative of the good, which keeps them from dwelling on the bad. 

It doesn't mean that grateful people don't see the flaws in situations. Feelings of disappointment and even anger exist alongside gratitude. But those feelings are less likely to dominate the thoughts of someone grateful.

Improve Relationships With a Thankful Heart

Being grateful allows you to improve relationships with family and friends, in time for the holidays. People who regularly practice gratitude have stronger relationships.

Those relationships extend beyond family and friends. You are more likely to build positive relationships with strangers as well. 

Studies show that acting more grateful promotes human connection. Receiving thanks makes others feel happy too! 

Instead of looking at all your loved one's flaws, practicing gratitude will allow you to celebrate their strengths. This greatly improves relationships.

Gratitude raises your mental health awareness about others and increases empathy. Gratitude cultivates friendships and love.

Maintain Physical Health and Appearance

If you're worried about indulging in food and drinks through the holidays, rest assured. Gratitude helps you maintain a healthier lifestyle too. 

Research shows that those who practice gratitude are more likely to take pride in their physical health and appearance. This is likely because they are aware of all the wonderful things in their life worth being emotionally present for. 

You are more motivated to care for yourself or prepare healthier meals when you are expressing gratitude.

Studies also show that gratitude activates the anterior cingulate cortex and the medial prefrontal cortex, which helps lower impulsivity and increase willpower, so you can avoid overindulging this season.

Have More Fun 

Being thankful will make your mother-in-law's turkey dinner taste better, and make the overall experience of Thanksgiving more enjoyable. When you set aside time to feel grateful, you appreciate everything around you more.

Family gatherings become more fun when you truly appreciate the time spent together. Even the cooler Autumn weather feels better when you appreciate the fluffy new fall scarf you found on sale.

Giving and receiving gratitude puts everyone in a better mood. So open up your heart and be thankful for the roof above your head, the health of you and those around you, and the food that fills your belly. 

It will help you make the most out of your Thanksgiving holiday.

Practicing Gratitude

So how do you practice gratitude in a meaningful way? There are a lot of ways to work gratitude into your life in a positive way.

In the beginning, you will need to consciously set aside time to be grateful. But over time, it will become a natural part of your daily routine.

Here are some creative ways to begin being grateful this Thanksgiving holiday.

Count Your Blessings

Set aside time to count your blessings, literally.

Maybe you are thankful for another year of good health, your promotion at work, or your Aunt's pumpkin pie recipe. Whatever the case, counting your blessings makes the holiday feel more meaningful.

Share Your Gratitude

Before sitting down to eat this Thanksgiving, introduce a new holiday tradition. Go around the table and have everyone share one thing they are thankful for this year.

This is a wonderful way to share gratitude with loved ones, and include children in a fun family tradition. 

Create a Gratitude Chain

Encourage family and friends to write one thing they are thankful for on a strip and add it to a paper chain called a gratitude chain. Each time someone thinks of something they are thankful for, invite them to add to the chain.

You will be amazed at how long the paper chain will get throughout the day.

Take a Gratitude Hike

Get outside in the fresh air and set aside time to feel grateful.

Taking an Autumn walk is a great way to practice mindfulness. The fresh air and picturesque Fall sights will make you feel a sense of peace.

While you walk, think of all the things you feel grateful for this Thanksgiving. It will boost your mood immediately.

Give Back

Volunteering in your community is another great way to practice being grateful. If you have a grateful heart, paying that gratitude forward will make you feel even better.

Volunteer at a soup kitchen this Thanksgiving, or spend time helping out at a local animal shelter. It is a great way to spread gratitude.

Use a Gratitude Journal

If you want to extend gratitude beyond Thanksgiving and into your everyday life, start a gratitude journal. Spending a few minutes jotting down things you are grateful for at the end of each day is a wonderful way to maintain the benefits of gratitude in your life.

Being Grateful Promotes Good Health

Thanksgiving doesn't need to be a source of stress and anxiety. By practicing gratitude this year you will increase your mental health awareness and promote good health. 

Being grateful boosts your mood and the moods of those around you. So, take time to be thankful for your health, relationships, shelter, and the world around you. 

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