Next week is Thanksgiving, the official kick-off to the holiday season. Although some people welcome this time of year with eager anticipation, others must summon a deep well of inner strength just to get through it. No matter which group you fall into, there’s one step you can take to help improve the experience. Research shows that cultivating a practice of gratitude can nurture peace and contentment, even in those with heavy hearts.

Letter writing to ease anxiety

One study analyzed the results of three groups of college students seeking treatment for clinical mental health issues, primarily depression and anxiety. One group was asked to write letters of appreciation to one person each week for three weeks, another group was asked to write about negative experiences, and the last group did no writing. All three groups also underwent psychotherapy counseling. 

After four weeks and again at 12 weeks, the group who wrote the letters reported “significantly better” mental health than the other two groups. Researchers attributed this result to the fact that the letter writers focused on positive words and emotions, rather than negative ones. Interestingly, only 23% of the letter writers actually delivered the letter to their intended recipient, indicating that the simple act of recording their grateful thoughts had positive effects.

Additional benefits

A 2021 report by Harvard Health Publishing summarized several studies illustrating additional health-related benefits of gratitude:

  • People who practice weekly gratitude journaling may improve their physical as well as mental health.
  • Couples who express gratitude to each other may feel better about the relationship and become more comfortable communicating concerns.
  • Managers who thank their employees may be surprised to experience a more productive team. 

Different ways to practice

Writing letters, journaling, and verbal communication are just some of the ways to express gratitude. Others include meditating, praying, giving handmade or store-bought gifts or cards, sending flowers, or simply thinking about someone or something you’re grateful for.

Inner peace, better physical health, stronger relationships, and a more engaged workforce – take time this holiday season to see how cultivating a practice of gratitude might benefit your life.

Need help getting started? SimplaFYI has vetted health coaches, meditation and mindfulness teachers and a host of other practitioners who can guide you. SimplaFYI members receive preferred pricing from our vetted community of practitioners. Not a Member? Join today!

Image and Blog by: Carol Swanson, a Health & Wellbeing writer. She can be reached at [email protected]