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The Enormous Psychological Importance of Gratitude

On Thanksgiving, when you find yourself stuffing your face full of massive quantities of turkey, stuffing, and whatever other coma-inducing fare your family whips up for the holiday, consider this: you’re doing your mental state a big favor. As long as you appreciate your food, that is.

The simple and natural act of expressing gratitude, if you believe in modern psychology (Tom Cruise, you can stop reading here and go jump on your couch), has positive effects for one’s happiness.

For example, Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, writes on her blog:

One of the most common happiness recommendations is to keep a gratitude journal. Studies show that doing so raises people’s life satisfaction, improves health, increases energy, reduces troublesome thoughts, and promotes good sleep.

In her book, she also recommends reading accounts of people who really had it bad, such as folks who battled life-threatening illnesses. Contrary to making one depressed, as one might suspect, reading such accounts can have the affect of making people appreciate what they have.

Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich and protoge of great Dale Carnegie, advocates as part of a successful and fulfilling life repeating a daily gratitude prayer.

I give thanks daily, not for mere riches, but for wisdom with which to recognize, embrace and properly use the great abundance of riches, I now have at my command. I have no enemies because I injure no man (or woman) for any cause, but I try to benefit all with whom I come in contact, by teaching them the way to enduring riches. I have more material wealth than I need, because I am free from greed and covet only the material things I can use while I live.

Congitive behavioralists employ gratitude to combat anxiety and depression. And in researching this post, I was blown away by the cited research in the Wikipedia entry on gratitude. For example, studies indicate:

A large body of recent work has suggested that people who are more grateful have higher levels of well-being. Grateful people are happier, less depressed, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives and social relationships Grateful people also have higher levels of control of their environments, personal growth, purpose in life, and self acceptance

So have a Happy Thanksgiving, readers! We appreciate you, give thanks to you, and we’re all the happier for it.