Thanksgiving may not be here for another two months, but it’s still time to put on our “thanking caps” and remember what we’re grateful for. Frequently saying thanks can lead to feeling healthier and happier, all year long.

No No, Thank You —The Takeaway

First thing’s first: Showing gratitude is typically thought of as being thankful and wanting to show and return appreciation and kindness. Sure, many things can make someone happy— from friends and family to a warm bowl of soup— but pausing to appreciate these things is beneficial in more ways than one. Those who show gratitude tend to report being healthier, and one study found those who wrote down what they were grateful for each week exercised more, had fewer health complaints, and generally felt better about their livesExamining the pathways Between Gratitude and Self-Rated Physical Health Across Adulthood. Hill, P.L., Allemand, M., Roberts, B.W. Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL. Personality and Individual Differences 2013 Jan;54(1):92-96.Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Emmons RA, McCullough ME. Department of Psychology, University of California, Davis CA. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2003 Freb; 84(2):377-89.. Other research found college students who wrote down what they were grateful for at bedtime slept better that night. Gratitude has also been shown to instill feelings of hope, inspiration, and forgivenessGratitude and subjective well-being in early adolescence: examining gender differences. Froh JJ, Yurkewicz C, Kashdan TB. Hofstra University, Department of Psychology, Hempstead, NY. Journal of Adolescence, 2009 Jun;32(3):633-50..

But it’s not just “me”— counting those blessings can also strengthen relationships with those we are thankful for. In fact psychologists say gratitude is a key part of maintaining intimate relationshipsTo have and to hold: gratitude promotes relationship maintenance in intimate bonds. Gordon, A.M., Impett, E.A., Kogan, A., et al. Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley CA, USA. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2012 Aug;103(2):257-74..

Just beware, too much of a good thing can turn bad. It is possible to be too grateful, especially when thanking others. If someone does a simple favor, no need to thank him or her with a fancy dinner for two — unequal acts of love can lead to feelings of guilt or even resentment.

So as we give thanks today, remember that gratitude shouldn’t only happen on World Gratitude Day or around the Turkey Day table. Make giving thanks a daily habit, whether it’s sending a thank-you note or simply pausing to say a quiet thanks!

This article originally posted November 2011. Updated September 2013.

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