This Thanksgiving, along with the cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, don’t forget to bring thankfulness to the table. A
heaping helping of gratitude may bring you closer to those around you—and ultimately
that may get you through the holidays with less stress.
Recent research shows that gratitude
can strengthen bonds with family and friends in several ways. Being grateful to
loved ones helps you feel closer
and more connected to them. Plus, studies show that feeling and expressing gratitude
may make you:
When you express your gratitude
to loved ones, it lets them know that their thoughtful gestures are noticed and
appreciated. Your thanks is a powerful reward, which makes it more likely that
they’ll do additional thoughtful things in the future. And that gives you even
more to feel grateful about.
Yet the power of gratitude seems
to go beyond just rewarding others for good behavior. In fact, research shows that thoughts
of gratitude can have positive effects even when not spoken aloud.
It’s Good to Feel Understood
Sara Algoe, PhD, an assistant professor of
social psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has a
theory about why grateful thoughts have such a beneficial impact on relationships. Actions that
give rise to gratitude stand out from other nice acts because they make you
feel understood, approved of, or cared for, she says. These feelings send a
powerful message to your brain: You must have a close, high-quality
relationship with this other person, because he or she seems to know you so
In short, gratitude signals that
this is “someone who will be there through thick and thin, both providing
support and enriching one’s life,” Dr. Algoe writes in Social
and Personality Psychology Compass. Consequently, you may put more
effort into the relationship, making it stronger yet.
Starting a Gratitude Tradition
Thanksgiving is a holiday custom-made to bring out feelings
of gratitude. Yet between feasts, football, and Friday sales, it’s easy to get
One way to refocus on the day’s true purpose is to go around
the table and have each person share something he or she is thankful for. On
Thanksgiving and every day, you can also take a few minutes in the evening to
reflect on or write about things that made you feel grateful that day.
Carter, PhD, a sociologist at the Greater Good Science Center of the University
of California, Berkeley, shares other great ideas on her website for making gratitude a holiday
tradition. One of her suggestions is to put large place cards around the table,
on which people can write grateful messages to fellow diners while the turkey
cooks. Sitting down to a place card full of thank you’s sounds like a lovely
way to start dinner—and writing the messages beforehand is a good reminder of
what the day is all about.
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