Read the following online article from Harvard Health.
Giving thanks can make you happier
Each holiday season comes with high expectations for a comfortable and happy time of year. However, for many people, this time of year also includes sadness, anxiety, or depression. Of course, major depression or an anxiety problem benefits most from professional help. But what about those who just feel lost or stressed or sad at this time of year? Research suggests that one part of the Thanksgiving holiday can actually make you happier. It's being grateful.
Gratitude is being thankful for what a person receives, both real or an idea. With gratitude, people notice the goodness in their lives. Also at this time, people usually recognize that the reason for their goodness is at least partially outside themselves. As a result, being grateful also helps people connect to something larger than themselves. They can connect to other people, nature, or a higher power.
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and usually connected with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions. They enjoy good experiences. They improve their health. They deal with challenges. And they build strong relationships.
People feel and express gratitude in many ways. They can apply it to the past. This means thinking of positive memories. And it means being thankful for parts of your childhood or past blessings. The present means accepting good experiences now. The future means keeping a hopeful feeling. The natural or current level of someone's gratitude does not matter. Gratitude is a quality that people can successfully build more.
Research on Gratitude
Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons from the University of California, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough from the University of Miami, have done much of the research on gratitude. In one research study, they asked all the people to write a few sentences each week. They focused on specific topics.
One group wrote about things they were grateful for. They thought about things that had happened during the week. A second group wrote about daily problems or annoying things. The third group wrote about events that had affected them. This group did not focus on the events being positive or negative. After 10 weeks, the gratitude group was more hopeful. They felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more. And they had fewer visits to doctors than those who focused on negative ideas.
Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman is a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania. He tested the effect of different positive psychology ideas on 411 people. Each group was compared with an assignment. They needed to write about early memories. One time their week's assignment was to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness. The groups immediately showed a big increase in happiness scores. This effect was greater than any other idea. The benefits lasted for a month.
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Text adapted from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier