An Attitude of Gratitude

Count your blessings. This trite phrase seems to be on everyone’s mind as we get closer to Thanksgiving. However, many people don’t realize how important it is to be grateful, not just when eating the Thanksgiving turkey, but also all year long.

“I try to think about the things that I am thankful for every night. I pray about all the things that come to mind, and it helps me to realize how blessed I am,” says freshman Abby McDonald.

You’ve probably been told hundreds of times to be thankful for what you have. But when someone says to be thankful, they don’t usually think about all the benefits behind it.

“I know that it’s good to be thankful, and I know that I often take for granted things that I have. Even though I’m told often to be more appreciative, I don’t think I take enough time to be thankful,” says sophomore Anna Jernigan.

The most common result of gratitude is happiness, which is actually an important key to good health. Studies have shown that people who are happy live healthier and more stress free lives. Increased happiness can also lead to an increase in sleep, a decrease in depression, and a generally more positive outlook on life.

“I think if more people knew that there are so many health benefits to giving thanks, then they would do it more often. People would be more willing to show their gratefulness if they knew it can actually keep you healthy,” says sophomore Mallory Smith.

General happiness helps to decrease stress levels, which ultimately lowers the heart rate and blood pressure levels; this is essential for a healthy heart. Happiness is also associated with a stronger immune system. A study was performed to see the effect of positive emotions on people’s immunity to diseases, such as the common cold. Participants who reported having mostly positive emotions were found to have a much stronger immune system.

“I am thankful for so many things, and I think it’s very interesting how it can actually benefit your health. I always feel really good when I think about all my blessings, so I’m not very surprised,” says Jernigan.

Students generally struggle with extreme stress levels, especially in high school. One simple way to combat this is simply showing more gratitude. Students who participated in an experiment were then asked extremely challenging questions. They were also told that their professor would be grading their responses, which caused them extremely high stress levels. Students who had higher levels of more positive emotions were reported to recover from the extreme stress faster than those who did not.

“I feel like if people knew the benefits of thankfulness then they wouldn’t be as stressed. Stress can be a hard thing to deal with, and if everyone knew that just being thankful could make you less stressed, I think they would be [more grateful],” says sophomore Savannah Accord.

Furthermore, showing more gratitude can lead to a more positive outlook on life. When we are more grateful for small things, we tend to be more positive people overall. With our natural human tendency to be negative, we need to put more of an emphasis on being thankful.

“It makes me feel so good and happy to think about my family, my friends, and my church group. They are so supportive of me, and I love how they care so much about my success,” says Smith.

Becoming a more grateful person doesn’t have to be very hard. There are simple ways to become more thankful, such as keeping a gratitude journal or writing small letters to those who have impacted your life. Being thankful can be as simple as smiling while thinking about your blessings.

“I’m thankful for things like good health, a roof over my head, and a loving family to come home to every day. When I think about those things, I feel really important, special, and loved. I think people should focus more on what they are blessed with, rather than what they don’t have,” says Jernigan.

If we all were to be more grateful and if we all decreased the negativity and stress in each of our lives, the world we live in would be a much more enjoyable environment. Simple changes in each of our lives could have life changing results.

“If everyone would spend less than five minutes a day to take a moment and be thankful for everything they are blessed with, the world would be a more beautiful place to live in. People wouldn’t be as negative, and we would all start to focus on others, rather than ourselves. We would realize that there are other people who aren’t as blessed as we are, and we would be able to find ways to help them with a cheerful attitude,” says McDonald.