The field of psychology has traditionally been focused more on understanding distress and illness than on understanding wellness and positive emotions. Only in recent years has there been more systematic study of gratitude and its positive effects. The body of research is large and growing, and the findings support impressive conclusions about the strong links between gratitude, mental health, and wellbeing. It’s been reported that grateful people are happier, more open and sociable, less depressed and neurotic, and express higher levels of satisfaction with their lives and relationships. Grateful people have higher levels of personal growth and self-acceptance, and they have stronger coping skills for the challenges and setbacks they experience. They also share a greater willingness to seek out help from others, spend more time planning how to address issues, and demonstrate the ability to interpret challenging events in ways that help them grow. In short, the data confirms there is nothing but upside to practicing gratitude—but see for yourself. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you.
Personally, we are grateful for water, mountains, freedom, music, road trips, March Madness, laughter, and the chance to take a chance. Above all, we are grateful for our family and friends.
To quote our friend Alex, we don’t know how to describe it other than to say we love them. That shared love and appreciation for others in your life – for your “family,” by any definition – may be the most nourishing source of gratitude there is.
I’m sure that’s why Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday, by far. It’s really a feast of the superpowers: simplicity (stripped of the gifts and excessive hype that can weigh down other holidays), love, of course, and humor among them. But gratitude reins supreme on this holiday. Young and old, everyone gets it: we gather to give thanks.
This article is excerpted and adapted from the book Life is Good by Bert and John Jacobs, published by National Geographic on September 1, 2015. Copyright © 2015 The Life is Good Company.