Thank you very much

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It’s Thanksgiving. Clearly the topic de jour is how grateful we all should be for what we have. How life is made of little moments. How fortunate we are to be able to enjoy sunsets and good books and fudge sauce. And most of all, how having each other—someone to love, someone who loves you—is all that really counts. All of that is true.

What interests me, though, is that, scientifically speaking, having these things isn’t the important part. It’s the conscious act of being thankful for them—something that should continue long after the turkey disappears.

Just Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal had a big article on the way gratitude makes you healthier. The author notes,

“Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not…they are also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections.”

This isn’t your mother nagging you to say thank you to the nice lady. These are serious researchers with scientific data that an attitude of gratitude can stave off everything from depression to the flu. Don’t take my word for it; read it for yourself.

While just saying “thank you” seems like a pretty pleasant path to self-improvement., there is further good news for caregivers. An analogous article on EverydayHealth.com offers a list of ways to boost the gratitude factor in your life. A prime method: Doing something for someone else. So, congratulations! You are well on your way to greater mental and physical health. Other tips include reframing negatives (that whole finding the silver lining thing) and being truly aware of the things for which you are thankful.

Right now, I’m thankful that there are sweet potatoes in the oven—and that there is a cultural expectation that I will eat a second helping. When I do, I’ll be sure to say a great big “thank you.” And mean it.