The health benefits of being thankful
Being thankful and counting your blessings this Thanksgiving may help you mentally and physically -- recent research shows it's healthy to be grateful.
Depending on your view of history, the holiday of Thanksgiving is either a commemoration of an event that changed North America for the better or for the worst; but the idea of Thanksgiving itself -- of reaching across the table, of being thankful for the good things that have happened throughout the year, particularly around the harvest time -- actually has a very important scientific basis in making us all feel better. It's going on inside of us, mentally, physically.
Jeffrey Froh, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Hofstra University, is on "The Takeaway" to talk about research into the scientific biological basis of Thanksgiving itself.
Froh's research focuses on being grateful as a continuing behavior, and the benefits that accrue by doing that: "The one particular study that we did was we had students count blessings, which is essentially focusing on the things they were thankful or grateful for, and we had them journal that daily for two weeks.
"We followed them up three weeks later to see the benefits, and we found that students who counted blessings reported feeling more optimistic, more satisfied with their lives, more school satisfaction -- and actually, the trend for being more satisfied with school not only occurred immediately after the experiment, but actually lasted up to three weeks later."
There's a broad literature emerging in science and psychology that is attempting to measure the benefits of certain consistent behavior, like praying and being thankful, and there are some surprising findings.
Froh: "It's beyond feeling good, and beyond happiness ... we found that grateful kids tend to report less physical complaints; bit also in the adult literature ... they found that grateful people who counted blessings were more likely to exercise, more likely to report better sleep; less likely to report these physical complaints. There's even some research done, we're looking at, when you have a sense of appreciation your heart rhythms are more coherent and smooth, which of course is healthy."
"The Takeaway" is PRI's new national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.
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