Why It’s Important to Continue Being Grateful Even After Thanksgiving

Aside from eating copious amounts of turkey and pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving also represents a time of reflection and gratitude for many of us. Even though November and the Thanksgiving season are winding down, we may want to consider extending our gratitude into December and beyond. The idea of being grateful for what we have not only sounds like a good sanity check in the midst of a crazy holiday season, but research has also shown that gratitude may even play a role in both our physical and mental health. Indeed, gratitude has been linked to several outcomes related to physical health. For example, gratitude has been linked to better self-reported physical health, better sleep, less fatigue, and reduced stress. Being more grateful has also been related to lower levels of inflammation in patients with heart disease, which is particularly interesting because inflammation is relevant to many chronic diseases other than heart disease, such as arthritis, diabetes, and cancer.

Being grateful may also be good for your mental health. Across many studies, gratitude has been linked to better well-being, including higher levels of positive affect and greater satisfaction with life. Those who are more grateful also tend to exhibit less depression and anxiety. Finally, gratitude is also related to traits relevant to having better social relationships, such as trust, empathy, and being prosocial.

Researchers have also conducted studies in order to see whether increasing people’s gratitude through an intervention can improve outcomes relevant to health. For example, researchers have asked people to list five things for which they are grateful or had people write letters of gratitude, and these kinds of gratitude interventions have lead to improvements in important outcomes such as sleep, exercising habits, life satisfaction, giving of social support, connection with others, and happiness.

So if you’re getting aggravated by crowds in the mall and your never-ending holiday to-do list this month, try to take a second to remember why you’re grateful for the people who you’re buying presents for. Besides potentially making your holiday shopping experience more pleasant, it may even have the bonus perk of improving your health and well-being too.