As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches we are reminded of what we have to be grateful for, and how we celebrate this holiday and focus on what we’re grateful for differs culture to culture and person to person.
For many, the tradition is focused on a smorgasbord of food, celebrating with family, and relaxing and watching football.
Despite how we rejoice, the important thing is that we are able to direct our attention to what we are thankful for and appreciate.
When we are grateful it is related to positive affect, optimism, happiness and life satisfaction. Further, it tends to buffer negative affect, anxiety and depressive symptoms.
For some people gratitdue comes easier and they are simply more grateful. However, even momentary episodes of gratitude can be beneficial and show physiological changes.
There are three general methods to induce gratitude. These include the gratitude list, behavioral expressions of gratitude, and grateful contemplation.
I will briefly explain these and put emphasis on grateful contemplation as a useful intervention.
1. The gratitude list is a very common method where people construct a list of things they are grateful for.
2. An example of behavioral expression of gratitude would be writing a letter of gratitude and hand delivering it or reading it to the person of our grateful intent.
3. A third type of intervention is to contemplate gratitude, and in a recent study, the “thinking” of gratitude produced significant increases in positive affect.
This recent study in the journal of Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being (2011), participants were taken through a reflection process to contemplate gratitude.
Participants were asked to think about people, items, or moments for which they were grateful for the past week and to sustain these feelings.
Specifically, they were asked to contemplate gratitude twice a week over a four week period. They were asked to reflect on one or more of their grateful considerations for 5 minutes and then to write about their experience in a journal.
Having participants contemplate gratitude showed higher satisfaction and self-esteem in the short-term, and reveals that thinking about things we are grateful for is sufficient to induce these psychological benefits.
Ultimately the other interventions of making a gratitude list, and writing and reading a gratitude letter, provide methods to contemplate gratitude in general, and potentially it is this conscious focus in and of itself that really offers psychological benefits.
So, with this consideration in mind, approaching Thanksgiving with recognition of this value can help us to connect and really embrace the fruitful purpose of this holiday.
Remember to think of what you are grateful for and really take in the feeling of appreciation and thanks.
Photo credit: eric albee
Rash, J. A., Matsuba, M. K., & Prkachin, K. M. (2011). Gratitude and Well-Being: Who Benefits the Most from a Gratitude Intervention? Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 3 (3), 350-369.