Why Thanksgiving is the Happiest Holiday

Thanksgiving provides Americans with a secret psychological benefit, in addition to great food, family, friends, and football.  As a result of focusing on gratitude, Thanksgiving gives us all those happy feelings that we desperately want during the long holiday season. 

Gratitude is like the Swiss-Army-knife of therapeutic tools!  Scientific evidence has shown that practicing it has a seemingly endless amount of psychological and physical benefits.  Due to all the positive affects of gratitude, therapists are always recommending that their client’s practice it. 

Psychological benefits include:

  • Increases experience of positive emotions (happiness, optimism, etc)
  • Decreases experience of negative emotions (depression, anxiety, frustration, regret, etc)
  • Feeling better about life as a whole
  • Feeling more satisfied in your relationship
  • Increases goodwill towards others
  • Increases mental strength

Physical benefits include:

  • Decreases feelings of aches and pains
  • Improves sleep
  • Decreases symptoms of illness

Want to learn more about the benefits?  I’d recommend Dr.Robert Emmons’ book, “Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier.” 

Results are instantaneous

One scientific study found that a one-time act of thoughtful gratitude produced an immediate 10% increase in happiness and 35% reduction in depressive symptoms.  Unfortunately, the results do subside.  As a result of the subsiding affects, you should practice it right at this very moment……  You’re welcome! 

Tips for practicing gratitude:

Be specific – You’ll reap more benefits if you’re specific instead of generic.  Instead of saying “I’m grateful for my parents”, try thinking “I’m grateful that my parents let me go to the movies with my friends on Saturday night.”

Do it daily – Practicing gratitude on a daily basis allows you to sustain the positive benefits.  Since using it regularly boosts your mood, try using a gratitude journal to help incorporate gratitude into your daily routine.

Turn negatives upside-down – When you find yourself thinking negatively about something or someone, try to identify something that you can be grateful for even in that moment.  As a result, you’ll find negative experiences to be more tolerable. 

Thanksgiving Gratitude Game

Now that I’ve convinced you of the great powers of gratitude, use it this Thanksgiving.  Try this game at your Thanksgiving party:

“Gratitude Guess Who” – This is a great table game, or post-dinner game!
As your guests arrive, have them each write down something they are grateful for and their name on a slip of paper and put them (folded up so no one peeks) in a bowl or basket.  Then, around the dinner table or after the meal is over, have everyone take turns picking a paper and reading the item without reading the person’s name and the group can guess.  If you don’t have a lot of guests or it’s just your family, you can play several rounds with new items each round-for added difficulty give each round a “theme” such as: seasonal blessings, color specific, about a person in the group (aka, why we are grateful for mom/dad), something you can see at that moment, etc.

If you’re interested in learning more positive tools for increasing your mental health, counseling sessions at Christopher John Counseling can help.  Along with gratitude, clients learn and practice a variety of therapeutic tools that help them achieve their therapeutic goals.  Click here to schedule your free initial consultation today.

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