Thanksgiving has passed. But did you actually take the time to express gratitude?
If you didn't, then now might be a good time to pause and reflect on the things you are grateful for.
Why, you ask?
It turns out that showing gratitude once in awhile may help nourish your mind, body and soul.
Gratitude can offer sustenance for living a healthier and more fulfilling life according to several scientific studies.
Let’s take a closer look at what science says we can harvest if we start expressing gratitude:
1. Being grateful promotes happiness.
This one sounds like a no-brainer.
People who are thankful for the blessings they have tend to exude a positive outlook on life. They take time to appreciate the little things around them and generally remain equanimous.
But don’t take my word for it.
In a psychological study conducted by Dr. Robert Emmons of the University of California Davis, researchers asked one group of participants to write about things they were thankful for.
A second group was asked to write about what irritated them.
After 10 weeks, the former group reported that they felt more satisfied with their lives. The data also showed that the impact lasted for months after the activity.
In a similar study by Dr. Martin EP Seligman from the University of Pennsylvania, participants were asked to complete a variety of positive psychology tasks, one of which was to deliver a letter of gratitude to a person of their choice.
The participants who performed the gratitude task showed the highest boost in happiness scores, compared to those who performed other tasks.
The moral of the lesson is that a simple thank you can keep you from feeling blue.
2. Gratitude can improve self-esteem.
According to a recent study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, gratitude strongly correlates with self-esteem.
The study, which was done on 814 undergraduate students, also found that gratitude impacts an individual’s tendency for suicidal thoughts.
Before reading about these findings, I never realized that an intrinsic relationship can be found between gratitude and self-esteem.
But it makes for a pertinent link now that I think about it.
Those who are thankful for what they have are less likely to let negativity and insecurities faze them.
For example, if I say that I am truly grateful for my health, job, friends and family, my sense of self-worth will be amplified. I will be more confident in myself because I know I have something to offer.
So to feel worth it, try counting your blessings once in a while.
3. Saying thank you might save your marriage.
Researchers at the University of Georgia conducted a study where they interviewed 468 married individuals about their marital quality. Their results suggested that the strongest predictor of marital quality was spousal gratitude.
“It goes to show the power of ‘thank you,’” notes Allen Barton, one of the primary authors of the study. “Even if a couple is experiencing distress […] gratitude in the relationship can help promote marital outcomes.”
Ted Futris, a coauthor in the study, further explains:
When couples are engaging in a negative conflict pattern like demand/withdrawal, expressions of gratitude and appreciation can counteract or buffer the negative effects of this type of interaction on marital stability.
I suppose saying your “thank yous” might be just as powerful as your “I dos.”
4. Science says more gratitude equals less calories.
In a 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that participants who kept a weekly gratitude journal ended up exercising more.
The reasoning could be that if you don’t feel thankful and you constantly complain about the burdens in your life, then your self-defeating attitude can lead to destructive habits, like eating junk food and turning into a couch potato.
The takeaway is that if you want your body to look great, being grateful might be a good start.
5. Thankful thoughts will let you sleep through the night.
In a 2011 study led by Nancy Digdon, the student participants kept a gratitude diary where they would journal their thoughts for 15 minutes before they sleep.
Lo and behold, the students who performed the task slept longer, and felt more refreshed after their slumbers.
The study suggests that when you plant positive thoughts into your mind before you head to bed, you are less likely to worry and feel restless. Consequently, you will find it easier to doze off because you are not disturbed by anxiety.
Who knew that counting sheep and counting blessings can happen in consort?
6. Science says expression of gratitude reduces aggression.
Saying the F word will lessen with the practice of saying the T word. Aggressive behavior is less likely to be exhibited by an individual who expresses gratitude.
Professor Nathan DeWall of the UK College of Arts & Sciences says gratitude promotes empathy.
As a result, individuals who express gratitude tend to be more sensitive toward others.
Dewall’s 2011 study which was published in the Social Psychological & Personality Science found that even the mere task of counting your blessings mentally can be enough to decrease aggression.
7. Science says that gratitude develops resilience.
A simple thank you apparently can go a long way.
In a 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy, researchers found that veterans of the Vietnam war reported lower rates of PTSD with higher levels of gratitude.
Another 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that being thankful was correlated with resilience among participants personally affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Cultivating gratitude not only on your highest of highs, but also on your lowest of lows can elevate your willpower and render you more resilient.
8. Acts of gratitude can improve your business and the workplace.
Business leaders, pay heed to this.
If you are looking for simple and inexpensive ways to boost morale in your organization, try fostering a culture of gratitude.
In a 2013 national survey, more than 90 percent of Americans agreed that gratitude is important. However, only 10 percent reported that they actually expressed their thanks to their peers.
A recent article on The Wall Street Journal pegged this problem as workplace gratitude deficit.
The author, who is also a professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke University, urged leaders to develop routines around employee recognition, which studies show can improve business results, increase employee productivity and strengthen goal-oriented mindsets.
If you’re thinking about making your clients happy with your company’s performance, start by acknowledging your employee’s hard work first.
9. Being thankful more often will make you less materialistic.
There’s a solid body of research showing that materialism is correlated with chronic unhappiness. The good news is, we can rid ourselves of its symptoms with a small dosage of gratitude.
In a 2006 study, researchers Emily Polak and Michael E. McCullough found a strong correlation between gratitude and materialistic strivings.
Those who expressed more gratitude in their daily lives were less likely to crave material things and thus showed more contentment.
10. Gratitude may have been an integral part of human evolution.
Evolutionary theories posit that expression of gratitude may have been a human adaptation, one that promotes altruism.
In biology, organisms that perform altruistic acts gain an evolutionary advantage because they can subsequently become beneficiaries of altruism in return (ie reciprocal altruism).
In layman’s terms, if you express gratitude, you are encouraging those around you to continue their acts of kindness and generosity either to you or other people.
Thus, our abilities to say thank you to each other may have allowed us to evolve in ways that other animal species could not.
11. Research shows that practicing gratitude can be made easy.
There are simple yet powerful tools that have been used by scientists to cultivate gratitude.
Keeping a gratitude journal is a popular option.
You can buy them on Amazon for less than $10.
Writing gratitude letters to people who have been a great influence in your life is another inexpensive and simple way to practice gratitude.
Alternatively, mentally counting your blessings before you go to bed can do the job as well.
You can also be creative.
For instance, it’s not uncommon for gratitude practitioners to make a “gratitude jar,” where they write one thing they were thankful for every day for a whole year.
While Thanksgiving might be over, there's always a time and place to be grateful.
Whether it be around friends or family, urge those around you to express gratitude on a regular basis. Share with them what a serving of gratitude can offer according to science.
Who knows? They might just thank you for your two cents.