Thanksgiving doesn’t have a reputation for being the healthiest holiday, especially considering the delicious turkey dinner and decadent cocktails at the table. But based on what experts and researchers say, there’s some eye-opening health benefits to Thanksgiving that might make you look at the holiday in a whole new light.
Research shows that gratitude in general is good for your health. One study, published in the journal Psychiatry, found that practicing gratitude has an association with life satisfaction and overall well-being. Another study, published in the journal Spirituality in Clinical Practice, found that gratitude can quite literally (not just figuratively) help you have a healthier heart. Clearly, thinking deeply about what gratitude means can help your physical and emotional health in the long run, so it’s no surprise experts say it can potentially add years to your life.
“The grateful mind reaps massive advantages in life,” said Robert Emmons, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis. “Health and wholeness, wellness, and fullness result from the systematic practice of a grateful living.”
So what better time to practice gratitude than around Thanksgiving? As Dr. Emmons puts it, the holiday is the perfect moment to do so.
“The word ‘thanksgiving’ literally means, giving of thanks. Thanksgiving is an action word,” Emmons said. “Gratitude requires action.”
How to Practice Gratitude at Thanksgiving
Emmons told Yahoo in an interview that the best way to reap all the health benefits of Thanksgiving is to move beyond simply naming all your blessings at the dinner table. Instead, he thinks we should all acknowledge people that have paved the way for us to be where we are today.
“I think that a reflection of how our lives have been made so much more comfortable by the sacrifices of those who have come before us down through the generations should be the focus of how Thanksgiving should be observed,” Emmons said.
Of course, Thanksgiving is also a prime opportunity to simply let relatives and other loved ones know that you care about them. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, but take some time to tell your loved ones how special they are to you, or at least send them some beautiful Happy Thanksgiving quotes if you aren’t able to see them in person. Thanksgiving only comes once a year, after all; don’t let your chance pass you by!
This story originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.