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When it comes to feeling whole, there’s nothing that quite compares to a holiday filled with friends and family that focuses on food.
However, we believe that practicing “thanksgiving” is something that you should do year-round. Giving thanks on the regular goes far beyond developing better manners—it can have a profound impact on your social, emotional and even physical health.
Here’s why gratitude is an important component of healthy—and joyful—living:
Being thankful is a powerful antidepressant; it blocks out toxic and negative emotions and allows you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. One 2008 study published in the Journal of Research in Personality demonstrated that gratitude can reduce the frequency and duration of bouts of depression.
Those faced with adversity are also more resilient and likely to bounce back if they have the power of positive thinking on their side.
According to Robert Emmons, a scientist at the University of California who specializes in gratitude, being thankful doesn’t just have social and psychological effects—it also affects your physical health. Emmons has studied more than 1000 people between the ages of eight and 80, and found that those who are grateful have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, less aches and pains, and even sleep better.
It doesn’t hurt that people who consciously practice gratitude are also more likely to take care of their own health, through exercising more often and eating healthy food—something that O2 Living is also grateful for!
Whether you’re grateful for the little things (fresh organic fruits and vegetables) or the more deep-seated (your freedom), a big component of being thankful is having the ability to be present. Mindfulness meditation is the ticket to being more grateful and being grateful allows you to be more mindful.
If you’re focusing on the great things in your own life, you’re less likely to compare yourself to the other guy—which, in turn, affects your self-esteem. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased athlete’s self-esteem and, ultimately, their performance.
In another study conducted by Emmons, his team found that those who practiced gratitude were perceived in a more positive light than their peers; friends reported that these individuals were more supportive, kind and helpful.
“More than other emotion, gratitude is the emotion of friendship,” researcher Michael McCullough told the New York Times in 2011. Gratitude is the type of emotion that allows you to pay it forward in the simplest of ways. Taking the time to express a genuine “thank you” to your spouse, children, or yoga instructor can result in more loving and compassionate relationship—and can quickly turn a bad day, into a good one.