A wealth of good health outcomes are tied to a regular practice of giving thanks, says an expert in the science of gratitude from the University of Southern California.
“It’s very similar to working out, in that the more you practice, the better you get,” said Glenn Fox, Ph.D., head of program design, strategy and outreach at the USC Performance Science Institute.
Fox’s research has shown links between gratitude and brain structures tied to social bonding, reward and stress relief. Other studies have also revealed connections between the tendency to feel grateful and oxytocin, a chemical messenger in the brain that promotes social ties.
“Benefits associated with gratitude include better sleep, more exercise, reduced symptoms of physical pain, lower levels of inflammation, lower blood pressure and a host of other things we associate with better health,” Fox said.
The most effective approaches to gratitude practice include keeping a gratitude journal and expressing thanks – in writing and in person – studies have shown.
On Thanksgiving, practicing gratitude is a no-brainer, Fox concluded. “What other holiday is built on recognizing things we are grateful for?” he said. “I just don’t think you can go wrong.”