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Mindful : December 2018
The Power of Thanks Science suggests that expressing true gratitude boosts your health and spreads happiness. Here are simple ways you can unleash its power for the benefit of all. We say “thanks” a dozen or more times a day: when someone holds a door open, bags our groceries, puts a report on our desk. It’s a reflex, an almost knee-jerk reaction to simple daily transactions. We mutter it, often without really acknowledging the person we’re thanking. Yet as easy as it is to engage in the quotidian “thanks—no problem” exchange in our daily routines, we’re often left, in moments of larger generosity, feeling unworthy or embarrassed by what’s being offered. If you’ve ever thwarted a friend’s attempt to treat you to dinner or received a gift that you insisted was “too much,” you may be struck by that thankfulness gap. So, if “thank you” is too easy to say in some instances, and out of our reach in others, how can we go beyond a muttered “thanks” to one that’s truly underpinned with gratitude? And why would we want to? IT’S GOOD FOR YOU Turns out, there’s a great deal to be gained from truly feeling grateful. Research has linked gratitude with a wide range of benefits, including strengthening your immune system and improving sleep patterns, feeling optimistic and expe- riencing more joy and plea- sure, being more helpful and generous, and feeling less lonely and isolated. It even helps to mitigate depression. Research- ers at Indiana University recruited 300 people (mostly college students) receiving mental health counseling, and random- ized them into three groups. In addition to the counseling sessions, one group was asked to write a letter of gratitude each week for three weeks. The second group journaled their thoughts and feelings about negative experi- ences. The third group only received counseling but did no writing. Four and 12 weeks later, the gratitude- letter group “reported significantly better mental health” than either the journalers or those who received counseling alone. Other studies have found that counting blessings and gratitude writing reduces the risk of depression. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Stephanie Domet is a writer and editor in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she is thank ful for warm radiators, hot coffee, and the kindness of strangers. IT’S GOOD FOR YOUR RELATIONSHIPS Think back to that impulse to rebuff a gift or gesture for being “too much.” What would happen if you didn’t get involved in that nar- rative, and just allowed yourself to let that gift, that kind gesture, really sink in? To just feel...grate- ful? And if that still feels difficult, consider this: There’s scientific evidence that feeling and expressing gratitude in relationships of all kinds strengthens them. Researchers from both the University of North Carolina and University of California found that grati- tude acts as a “booster shot” for romantic relationships. And a review of close to 100 studies by researchers at the University of Nottingham determined that those who feel and express gratitude tend to be pro-social—kind, helpful, and giving. 18 mindful December 2018 LIVING | how to By Stephanie Domet • Illustration by Jennifer Tapias Derch