Each November, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving and take time to reflect and be grateful, but being grateful during the entire year can reap more benefits.
In November of 2014, Forbes published a piece written by Amy Morin, “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude That Will Motivate You to Give Thanks Year-Round.”
Morin listed benefits including, opportunities for building relationships, improved physical, mental and psychological health, better sleep, better self-esteem, and more empathy.
Dempsey Sisson, a student at Weber State, said she can see many of those benefits in her own life as she tries to incorporate an “attitude of gratitude.”
Sisson said she believes gratitude is important for relationships.
“Gratitude is important to making, maintaining and growing relationships,” Sisson said. “Whether the relationship is personal or formal, the inability to show gratitude can greatly diminish the way that people interact with you and how they feel about you.”
Sisson said she can also see why showing gratitude can help mental health.
“If you walk around the world feeling that something is missing from your life, then you will be right. Why? Because that element missing from your life will be happiness, and unless you genuinely appreciate and feel grateful for the things you already have, you will spend your whole life searching for that happiness.”
Sisson said that when she shows gratitude, she feels “a mental clarity” and her that her thoughts feel certain and meaningful.
Michael Olpin, a professor of health promotion, said that from a physiological standpoint, showing gratitude can provide valuable benefits to people.
According to Olpin, showing gratitude is “the exact opposite of the stress response.”
Olpin said that the stress response is a fight or flight response, designed to make a person powerful and fast so that they get away from a threat.
“The threat is the cause of your stress every time,” Olpin said. “When you are thankful for something, there is no thought of a threat.”
Olpin said that showing gratitude helps to eliminate thoughts of stress, which puts the body into parasympathetic nervous system activity: “The restore and repair mode,” according to Olpin.
Olpin said that when parasympathetic activity happens, “The body fixes itself of problems. It fixes itself of inflammation and of damage. It takes the imbalance of that stress response and puts you back into balance.”
Olpin said that he thinks of the word gratitude in two parts: “great attitude.”
Gratitude can be practiced in many different ways. Sisson says that if she is grateful, she likes to show her gratitude in a face-to-face situation and that showing gratitude over social media is less effective because it takes out the nonverbal elements.
“Depending on the level of the favor, my gratitude can range from a verbal thank you to crying and hugging,” Sisson said.
Olpin suggests that a great way to show gratitude is to be mindful.
“When you focus on this moment, here and now, and tune into that, naturally you become more thankful,” Olpin said.