Stress Management Situational Stress How to Practice Gratitude This Thanksgiving By Krystal Jagoo Krystal Jagoo Krystal Kavita Jagoo is a social worker, committed to anti-oppressive practice, who has worked for three academic institutions across Canada. Her essay, “Inclusive Reproductive Justice,” was in the Reproductive Justice Briefing Book. Learn about our editorial process Updated on December 23, 2020 Reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by mental health professionals. Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Megan Monahan Reviewed by Megan Monahan Megan Monahan is a certified meditation instructor and has studied under Dr. Deepak Chopra. She is also the author of the book, Don't Hate, Meditate. Learn about our Review Board Print Verywell / Alex Dos Diaz Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Gratitude and Health Gratitude Can Develop New Connections Gratitude Maintains Relationships Gratitude and Injustice How to Practice More Gratitude Sometimes it can be challenging to feel anything but stressed and uncertain as Thanksgiving approaches. This is especially true if you are starting to think more critically about the origin of that holiday, in terms of how Indigenous communities continue to be harmed since the genocide of Indigenous folx at the hands of America's earliest settlers. As many have just begun to understand how systemic oppression harms folx or the impact of climate change, you may be feeling more overwhelmed than usual. Thankfully, developing a gratitude practice may help to ground you following stressful events and throughout the rest of the year. Gratitude and Health A 2019 review of research studies found that gratitude was linked, beneficially, to social well-being, emotional health, and psychological functioning, and included gratitude journaling, i.e. "writing on a regular basis about things, people, and events one feels explicitly grateful for." It may well be worth the effort to develop a gratitude practice with regular activities as a tangible step to improving your mental and emotional health. In terms of its impact on physical health, a 2020 journal article that provided a systematic review of interventions found the practice of gratitude was associated with improvements in sleep quality, blood pressure, glycemic and asthma control, as well as eating behaviors. Based on the positive impact on physical health, you have even more of a reason to think seriously about how to incorporate more gratitude into your daily life. How to Reduce Stress and Feel More Grateful for What You Have Gratitude Can Develop New Connections A 2015 study of 70 undergraduate students demonstrated that "expressions of gratitude facilitate affiliation among previously unacquainted peers and establish support for a mechanism of this effect" based on the willingness of mentors to follow-up with mentees after receiving a handwritten thank-you note. People may benefit from promoting gratitude and interpersonal warmth with each other when fostering new connections. Gratitude Maintains Relationships According to the Find, Remind, and Bind theory, "gratitude is probably best understood as a mechanism for forming and sustaining the most important relationships of our lives, those with the people we care about and count on from one day to the next." Based on this research study, folx would benefit from integrating gratitude as a central component of maintaining relationships with loved ones by expressing thanks to them on a daily basis. A 2017 study shed light on gratitude in interpersonal relationships in terms of "persuasion (e.g., 'Thank you. I so appreciate you being willing to help me with this task'), identity management (e.g., 'I am so grateful for the opportunity to be honest with you'), and interaction management (e.g., 'Thank you for giving me the chance to speak')." As seen in these examples, gratitude can be easily expressed in how folx communicate with family and friends to maintain relationships. Gratitude and Injustice While gratitude is generally recommended, a thorough discussion would not be complete without putting it in perspective with respect to issues of oppression and privilege. A 2016 journal article by Liz Jackson draws attention to how "it would seem that availability of things to be grateful for and psychological benefits could correlate with relative advantage and disadvantage, exacerbating rather than ameliorating conditions of social inequality." In this way, preoccupation with generosity and gratitude can take away much-needed attention from issues of oppression and privilege, which are often the underlying source of inequitable outcomes for folx. To drive this point home, Jackson uses an example from Toni Morrison's acclaimed novel, "A Bluest Eye," in which, "lack of gratitude is defended by the main character, a young Black girl named Claudia, for receiving what might seem in the first place to be a harmless gift of plausible value: a pink-skinned baby doll." Claudia sees the gift as "an act of opposition to dominant esthetic and relational values oppressive or contrary to her own self-respect needs." For the character to show gratitude for what is considered valuable in a white supremacist society, her self-respect would be threatened in terms of potential internalization of Eurocentric beauty standards, which can contribute to anti-Blackness. While gratitude may be encouraged generally, it is crucial to note "though positive psychology asserts that gratitude can lead to being more beneficent in the world around you, without critical interrogation of how social injustice operates as individual advantage and disadvantage, one can be led away from understanding its structural nature, in favor of pleasure seeking and naivety, through gratitude chronicling or random acts of generosity to others." How to Practice More Gratitude In a white paper prepared for the John Templeton Foundation by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, gratitude is described as the "social glue that fortifies relationships—between friends, family, and romantic partners—and serves as the backbone of human society." It is mediated by gender, with such factors as envy, materialism, narcissism, and cynicism serving as barriers. A better understanding of gratitude bodes well for incorporating it in your life in a way that is beneficial without reinforcing the problematic status quo. Gratitude interventions include: Counting blessings: Listing five things for which you are gratefulThree good things: Writing down three things that went well and identifying the causes of those positivesMental subtraction: Imagining your life without a good thingGratitude letters and visits: Writing and delivering letters of gratitude to folx you had never thankedDeath reflection: Imagining your own death to take stock of and appreciate the benefits of being aliveExperiential consumption: Making a shift from spending money on things to investing in experiences More Ways to Revel in Gratitude This Holiday Season A Word From Verywell Especially during times of uncertainty, investment in gratitude can offer a variety of benefits given how it can positively impact physical and mental health on a personal level, as well as relationships with loved ones. Furthermore, folx who are functioning well and getting along with family and friends are likely to invest in their society for the benefit of others. As the holiday season approaches, you may benefit from considering how you can reasonably integrate a gratitude practice into your daily life, especially given how much harder this time can be for more oppressed folx. 7 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Jans-Beken L, Jacobs N, Janssens M et al. Gratitude and health: An updated review. J Posit Psychol. 2019;15(6):743-782. doi:10.1080/17439760.2019.1651888 Boggiss A, Consedine N, Brenton-Peters J, Hofman P, Serlachius A. A systematic review of gratitude interventions: Effects on physical health and health behaviors. J Psychosom Res. 2020;135:110165. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychores.2020.110165 Williams L, Bartlett M. Warm thanks: Gratitude expression facilitates social affiliation in new relationships via perceived warmth. Emotion. 2015;15(1):1-5. doi:10.1037/emo0000017 Algoe S. Find, remind, and bind: The functions of gratitude in everyday relationships. Soc Personal Psychol Compass. 2012;6(6):455-469. doi:10.1111/j.1751-9004.2012.00439.x Yoshimura S, Berzins K. Grateful experiences and expressions: the role of gratitude expressions in the link between gratitude experiences and well-being. Rev Commun. 2017;17(2):106-118. doi:10.1080/15358593.2017.1293836 Jackson L. Why should I be grateful? The morality of gratitude in contexts marked by injustice. J Moral Educ. 2016;45(3):276-290. doi:10.1080/03057240.2016.1186612 Allen S. The Science of Gratitude. Berkeley: Greater Good Science Center. By Krystal Jagoo Krystal Kavita Jagoo is a social worker, committed to anti-oppressive practice. 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