In his 1963 Thanksgiving proclamation, President John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
Research shows that gratitude should be something we cultivate all year long rather than a quality we only celebrate on the fourth Thursday of November.
Two psychologists, Dr. Emmons and Dr. McCullough, did a study on gratitude in which one group of participants wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them. After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. They also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.
People feel and express gratitude in multiple ways. Regardless of the inherent or current level of someone’s gratitude, it’s a quality that individuals can successfully cultivate further.
The Harvard Mental Health Letter provides some suggestions on how to do this:
Make a habit of writing thank you notes to people who have had an impact on your life.
If you can’t find the time to write, even thinking about and mentally thanking the person can improve your mental health.
Count your blessings or keep a gratitude journal so that every day or every week, you take a moment to write down what you are grateful for and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.
Pray or meditate on something you are grateful for.