Giving Thanks Is Good For Your Health

Shouldn’t A Healthy Thanksgiving Be About More Than A Fat-Free Pumpkin Pie Recipe? 

As a health and wellness blogger there is this feeling of obligation to come up with magical ideas for readers so that they can enjoy the holidays guilt-free without gaining a pound.

I’ve scoured skinny pumpkin cheesecake recipes, quick exercises to do pre-mealtime on turkey day, and creative portion control strategies.  I’ve found so many great ideas it would be impossible to share them all!  But, I wonder if eating a little less bread dressing, or doing a quick set of jumping jacks before you eat is really the best way to get focused on our health as we head into the Thanksgiving and the days that follow?

You know that from now until January 2, you will be subjected to rich, buttery, sugary, high-calorie treats everywhere you turn.  Along with that, you may not have time to get your regular workouts in.  You need to put a plan in place now if you’re going to survive the next six weeks without a three to five pound weight gain and that feeling of remorse you’ll have when you step on the scale for the first time in 2013.

All of the tips and healthy recipes are good.  But, before we delve into those, there’s something else we can do to keep our waistline from expanding and our blood pressure from escalating as we head into the time of year that many of us dread because of all of the food.  It’s like my daughter’s intensely competitive high school softball coach used to tell his team about winning.  “It’s a mental game.”

Practicing Gratitude 

“Gratitude helps you to grow and expand; gratitude brings laughter into your life and into the lives of all those around you.” –Eileen Caddy

Some of my Facebook friends have been putting up daily posts about the things in their lives that they are thankful for.  Some are using the alphabet to work their way from A to Z.  Others are taking a more random approach by counting down the days until Thanksgiving and posting something they feel especially thankful for each day.

Robert Emmon, psychology professor at the University of California and author of the book Thanks!: How The New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier has been studying gratitude for more than a decade.  Emmons says, “Grateful people are less likely to experience envy, anger, resentment, regret and other unpleasant states that produce stress.”

Emmons, in his article, “Why Gratitude Is Good”, states that he has studied more than one thousand people, from ages eight to 80, and found that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of healthy benefits:  A few of those he mentions are:

  • Stronger immune system
  • Less bothered by aches and pains
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Exercise more and take better care of their health
  • Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
  • More helpful, generous, and compassionate
  • More alert, alive, and awake
  • More outgoing
  • Feel less lonely and isolated

To think that practicing gratitude can have that much of an impact on our health is astounding!

In another study, researchers at the University of Connecticut found that gratitude can have a protective effect against heart attacks and, University of Miami psychology professor, Michael McCullough believes that, “taking the time to write down in a journal the things that you are grateful for daily goes a long way in changing your attitude and your outlook on life.”

An article in The Harvard Health Publications says, “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.

There’s plenty of convincing evidence that shows the happier you are, and the greater satisfaction you have with you day-to-day life, the easier it will be for you to maintain healthy habits.  Habits like eating nutritious foods, getting moderate amounts of daily exercise, and watching the scale so that it doesn’t trend upwards as we age, along with the avoidance of habits like overeating or excessive drinking, and smoking, seem to come more naturally for people that are happy.

We shouldn’t need research and psychologists to remind us that being grateful is good for our health.  But, this evidence does help to reinforce that staying positive, giving thanks, and counting our blessings, will keep us focused, alert and productive so that we will have more resilience when faced with the pressures of the holiday season.

Start A Gratitude Diary Today! Flickr photo by limevelyn

Begin Practicing Gratitude Today

Emmons recommends taking the time to keep a gratitude diary where you write down five things that you are grateful for each week.  The purpose of the diary is to intentionally focus our attention on developing the habit of being grateful and thus reap the benefits of a happier, healthier life.

Another method is to get into the practice of counting your blessings on a regular basis.  One way to do this might be to have a Gratitude List on the side of your desk or kitchen counter where you can keep a running log of the things that you are grateful each day.

If you are someone that likes to participate in a few minutes of quiet time or peaceful meditation each day, creating your gratitude list mentally during this time would work too.

Having been inspired by my Facebook friends’ pre-Thanksgiving posts, and the research of Robert Emmons, I’ve started my gratitude diary.  I encourage you to do the same. Cultivating a sense of gratitude is the first step to staying healthy and positive this year.

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not,
but rejoices for those which he has.” – Epictetus

Be Social! Share!


  1. hcg pellets says:

    This is very fascinating, You’re an overly professional blogger. I have joined your feed and look ahead to in quest of extra of your magnificent post. Additionally, I’ve shared your site in my social networks