Moving Beyond the Obligatory Grace Before Turkey: The Benefits of Practicing Regular acts of Gratitude
Many people practice gratitude by saying grace before every meal. For others, it might only be on the third Thursday of every November. I remember when growing up, my cousins would try to make me laugh during Thanksgiving grace which would get me in trouble by my elders. In hindsight, my elders were not only teaching me to be respectful to our religion, but also promoting an act that could potentially be helpful to my health and well-being.
Research suggests that showing gratitude can improve one’s mental health. A recent study randomized people who were experiencing mental health challenges into one of three counseling groups. One group was asked to write a letter of gratitude to someone each week for three weeks, another was asked to write a letter about a negative experience, and the third was not asked to write any letters. At 4 weeks and 12 weeks after the counseling sessions, the group that was tasked to write the letters of gratitude, showed more significant improvements in mental health than the other groups. In addition, the researchers looked at their brain activity using MRI and found the gratitude group showed increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex of brain which might explain improvements in their mental health.
According to a white paper, “other studies have looked at associations between gratitude and other aspects of well-being. In general, more grateful people are happier, more satisfied with their lives, less materialistic, and less likely to suffer from burnout. Additionally, some studies have found that gratitude practices, like keeping a “gratitude journal” or writing a letter of gratitude, can increase people’s happiness and overall positive mood.”
We hope that this e-mail challenge will help you practice acts of gratitude beyond the third Thursday of November to improve your health and well-being.
Call to Action: Keep a gratitude journal or write a letter of gratitude once a week.
Steps to Get Started on the Challenge:
- Take the pre-challenge survey at go.osu.edu/lhlwpresurvey. The survey should only take a few minutes to complete and will be open until November 15 at midnight.
- Print or download this optional Gather Your Gratitude Bingo card. Using the card will help you track your progress in adopting healthy habits throughout the challenge. If you can use your completion of this challenge to earn points for your employee wellness program, you will need to complete the card to turn in to your Wellness Coordinator or Extension Office.
- Feel free to email me during the challenge with comments, things that are going well for you, something that has changed, new ideas that others may want to try, or even challenges that you may be facing. I plan to share participant comments as we go along. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
- During this challenge, OSU Extension Live Healthy Live Well team members will be offering a webinar series on several the benefits of and ways to show Gratitude on Wednesday, November 1, 8, 15, 29 and December 6 at noon. Register for the series at https://go.osu.edu/lhlwwebinars.