Thanksgiving is just around the corner and for many people the holiday is centered on preparing and eating the traditional meal, watching highly-anticipated football games, and preparing for their Black Friday shopping spree. Many consider Thanksgiving the start of the stressful and busy holiday season, so it’s a perfect time to get in touch with the underlying meaning of the holiday – the gratitude and thankfulness that the early settlers felt for their safe arrival in the new world, friendship with the Native Americans and their abundant fall harvest.

A study by psychologists Dr. Robert Emmons and Dr. Michael McCullough found that participants who wrote a few sentences each week about things they were grateful for experienced increased optimism and positivity about their life, as well as fewer visits to their doctor! Another study by Dr. Martin Seligman showed a huge jump in happiness after writing and delivering a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked. The best part – this increase in happiness lasted for a whole month! Practicing gratitude has an abundance of beneficial effects on our overall health and wellbeing, including:

•Strengthening the immune system

•Increasing feelings of connectedness and strengthening relationships

•Improving outlook on life

•Decreasing stress

•Increasing happiness and self-esteem

•Improving the ability to deal with adversity

The practice of gratitude is shifting your focus to what you have instead of what you lack. It can be cultivated by focusing on memories and experiences from the past, things that are happening in the present, and even through hope and optimism for future events.

How can you incorporate a gratitude practice in your life?

•Keep a “Gratitude Journal” and record at least one thing you are grateful for every day. Even on your worst days, shifting your focus to something you are grateful for, no matter how small it is, will bring increased optimism and resiliency.

•Write a thank you note to someone in your life. Not only will this increase your own good feelings, but you will spread that gratitude and positive emotion to someone else!

•Thank someone mentally. Even if you don’t have time to write to someone a note, just thinking about the person that you would like to thank and why can get you into a mindset of gratitude.

•Create a gratitude habit. Is there a part of your daily routine where you could focus on thankfulness? As you’re locking your door to head out for work or an errand, think about your gratitude for having a place to live and your favorite things about it.

Give one of more of these practices a try to see which you enjoy, and incorporate them into your life year-round to improve your outlook and your health!