After a couple of years where Thanksgiving looked and felt a lot different, you may find that your traditions have changed. Gatherings may remain downscaled, maybe you don’t travel anymore or maybe your family and friends’ dynamic has changed. The one thing that hasn’t changed is our need to give and receive thanks. Giving thanks and receiving thanks helps us to feel seen, heard, and validated in our experiences, and has an overall positive impact on our health.  This Thanksgiving is a reminder to us all to give thanks, and gain health.

“Expressing gratitude can positively change your brain,” says Kristin Francis, MD, a psychiatrist at Huntsman Mental Health Institute. At a time of year when the days get shorter and the sun seems to spend most of its time hiding, it can really make an impact on our mental health. While having a trusted group of friends, a therapist and an active lifestyle can help with this, gratitude is also scientifically proven to help us feel better. Much like taking a vitamin each day to feel well, what if you offer some thanks each day and with that giving of gratitude you gain health?

Dr. Gail Saltz, psychoanalyst, assistant attending physician at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine, reports about the positive social, physical, and emotional health impacts of showing appreciation. Showing appreciation helps us to connect with others creating a stronger bond and trust with others. When we allow others to also thank us, we are helping to increase that bond. Gratitude has long been shown to help with decreasing anxiety, heart disease, and stress. If someone is offering you a “thank you,” think about how graciously you accept it, don’t downplay it, it’s a big deal. Both giving and receiving thanks is a great step toward better health.

We all want better health! We want to feel well physically, emotionally, and socially, and one thing we can all do to increase that well-being is to embrace thanks. Here are some ways to build more thanks into your days:

Start a gratitude journal. Maybe you don’t want to spend 20 minutes journaling each day, but at least start by making a list of things you are grateful for today. It can even be on a post-it! The mind-body connection of writing down and seeing all we are thankful for is very fulfilling.

Say thank you and mean it. Look for ways each day to thank someone and get specific if you can. Mel Robbins, a lawyer, television host, author, and motivational speaker said, “The most life-changing habit I’ve created for myself is interrupting a life-long pattern of nasty and negative self-talk, worries and insecurities with a positive, encouraging and optimistic mindset…You must double down on gratitude, and make it a habit every single day to find something to either email or text or say in person … something specific and tell somebody why that matters to you. You would be shocked at how far that goes because most people don’t do it. …If you make it a habit every morning to just tell one person you appreciate them and why you do; it changes everything.” Say thank you to someone, get specific, it’s in the details. It will leave you both feeling better inside and out.

Be nice to your body. One way to thank your body for all it’s done and will do is to give it thanks by treating it well. Stay hydrated, eat nourishing foods, move your body at least 20 minutes a day, get enough sleep and find time to play! Our bodies are our homes, let’s give them the gratitude they deserve by taking care of them!

If you want to feel better, it’s easy, you must do something and take action to make it happen. One really easy way to increase the overall quality of your health is to offer more thanks. Let’s let the holiday this week be a reminder now and always to give thanks and gain health.

Mary Hoadley

Director of The Wellness Center