5 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Is Good For Your Brain

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Ah, Thanksgiving, a time of gratitude, blessings, and a side of volcanic mashed potatoes spewing with gravy lava. This holiday ranks high in favorites amongst many Americans and for good reason too; after all, nothing is more precious than spending quality time with those you love most, albeit neck high in turkey stuffing and candied yams. Now there is more to celebrate during the holiday season than a satisfied stomach: research suggests that gratitude is not only limited to a mere appreciation for the positives of the world; rather, it is a life orientation that promotes understanding of personal well-being and the potential for improving well-being by fostering gratuitous practices. Here’s how expressing a little bit of appreciation to those around you can help power your brain:

1. Reduce your risk for depression.

Chin up! One study reported that gratitude is incompatible with a “negative triad” of beliefs about self, world, and future, all of which have been associated with depression. Another epidemiological study examining the role of religiously oriented thankfulness in predicting the lifetime history of nine psychiatric disorders found that thankfulness was associated with a significantly lower risk for major depression, general anxiety disorder, and phobia.

2. Feel better about yourself.

There have been at least twelve studies conducted that have supported the link between gratitude and subjective well-being. Constructs related to such states of well-being include one’s level of self-esteem, pleasantness, life satisfaction, personal growth, purpose in life, and self-acceptance. These positive relationships between gratitude and state of subjective well-being are compatible with previous survey results indicating that over 90% of American teens and adults associate gratitude to being “extremely happy” or “somewhat happy”.

3. Improve your relationships.

Tired of arguing about nothing? Previous research has associated gratitude with a wide range of social outcomes and positive relationships through self- and peer-reports. Gratitude relates to willingness to forgive which has been associated with the absence of psychopathological traits and is integral to positive functioning. Furthermore, gratitude is related to low narcissism, helping individuals to promote relationship formation and maintenance, increase relationship connection and satisfaction, increase reciprocally helpful behavior, and develop improved conflict resolution tactics.

4. Stop stressing the small stuff.

Although only a few studies have been conducted examining gratitude and physical health, there are some indications that gratitude may be related to various self-reported health symptoms and subjective stress. For example, a previous study reported gratitude to lead to decreasing levels of stress over time. As stress is related to a host of physical well-being complaints, gratitude may relate more generally to health through the mechanism of stress.

5. Enjoy a better snooze.

Say bye-bye to those unwanted morning puffs under your eyes. It has been reported that gratitude may be especially important for sleep. One study examined this possible relationship using a community sample of 401 subjects, 40% of whom were diagnosed with clinically impaired sleep. Grateful individuals were found to experience less sleep harming cognitions and more sleep promoting positive cognitions in categories such as total sleep quality, sleep duration, sleep latency, subjective sleep quality and daytime functioning.

Uttering a simple “thank you” can go a long way this holiday season. Not only will it get you a second helping of your favorite turkey meal, but it may help improve your emotional and social well-being from a psychological standpoint. So, don’t forget to raise your glass and say “cheers” to thankfulness!

Click Here For Article References:

DeShea, L. (2003). A scenario-based scale of willingness to forgive. Individual Differences Research, 1, 201–217.

Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 377–389.

Evans, J., Heron, J., Lewis, G., Araya, R., & Wolke, D.ALSPAC Study Team. (2005). Negative self-schemas and the onset of depression in women: Longitudinal study. British Journal of Psychiatry, 186, 302–307.

Farwell, L., & Wohlwend-Lloyd, R. (1998). Narcissistic processes: Optimistic expectations, favorable self-evaluations, and self-enhancing attributions. Journal of Personality, 66, 65–83.

Froh, J. J., Yurkewicz, C., & Kashdan, T. B. (2009). Gratitude and subjective well-being in early adolescence: Examining gender differences. Journal of Adolescence, 32, 633–650.

Gallup (1999). Survey results on “Gratitude”, adults and teenagers. Emerging Trends, 20(4–5), 9.

Joseph, S., & Wood, A. M. (2010). Assessment of positive functioning in clinical psychology: Theoretical and practical issues. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 830–838.

McCullough, M. E., Kilpatrick, S. D., Emmons, R. A., & Larson, D. B. (2001). Is gratitude a moral affect? Psychological Bulletin, 127, 249–266.

Nelson, J., & Harvey, A. G. (2003). An exploration of pre-sleep cognitive activity in insomnia: Imagery and verbal thought. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 42, 271–288.

Wood, A. M., Maltby, J., Gillett, R., Linley, P. A., & Joseph, S. (2008). The role of gratitude in the development of social support, stress, and depression: Two longitudinal studies. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 854–871.

Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., Lloyd, J., & Atkins, S. (2009). Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 66, 43–48.

 

Amy Wong, MS, is a medical writer and conducts traumatic brain injury research at St. Michael’s Hospital, a large academic institution located in Toronto, Canada. She holds a Master’s of Science from the University of Toronto under the department of Pharmacology. Her studies pertained to the selective field of neuropsychopharmacology examining the biological implications of post-stroke depression. Outside of brain injury research, Amy is also involved with cancer research at the University Health Network. Currently, she is examining both genetic and environmental factors that influence individual susceptibility to hepatocellular carcinoma risk.

Comments

  1. No matter how stressful and even sometimes seemingly unbearable times can be, I always remember that it could always be worse and that I have survived every worse day of my life.