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How Being Thankful Can Make You Healthy

With all the talk of food this week, I didn’t want to give the impression I’d missed the forest through the trees. Primal or traditional eats aside, it’s really about gratitude, isn’t it? Gratitude for those we love, for all we have, and for how far we’ve each come in one way or another. For my part today, I’m grateful for the love of my family, the benefit of health, and the continuing inspiration and support of the MDA community. While I appreciate the many emails I get from readers saying how the PB has changed their lives, this community has, indeed, changed mine. I want to thank you all today for reading and contributing. I value the wisdom, perspective, challenge, humor, and personal stories you have offered here over the years. MDA would not be what it is without you – the active, intelligent, and supportive community behind it.

As so many of us give thanks today, we’re doing more than our spirits good. Research has demonstrated that the act of gratitude – and it really is an action, isn’t it? – offers a myriad of benefits to our physical and mental health. We’re talking a greater sense of well-being and more hope for the future, but there’s more. In a number of studies, participants who kept gratitude journals (on a daily or weekly basis) reported higher health [1] and personal goal realization, enhanced mental and physical energy, and better sleep quality and duration. Thankfulness can act as a key motivator for self-care as well. Fostering gratitude appears to boost people’s likelihood to engage in exercise [2]. It also decreases their experience of physical ailments [3]– everything from pain to colds – while increasing their general vitality [4].

Although we in the U.S. pause today to offer thanks, the day can serve as a reminder to focus on the good in our lives and world. It fosters a sense of gratitude certainly. Yet, it also offers each person a unique window into and more personal appreciation for other family members’ experiences. Gratitude in that sense starts with personal reflection but maybe fosters something larger – compassion [5], patience, benevolence [6]. The only thing better than offering thanks today is fostering the mindset every day. The exercise can clearly have a deep and lasting impact on your life – and health.

Thank you once again, MDA readers, and (to all our U.S. readers) have a wonderful Thanksgiving!