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Editor’s Note: Today, I’d like to welcome a new contributor to the site, my friend Kelly. She is joining us to share her expertise on things like gratitude, stress management, and more. All areas that we could use help in! 🙂 Please give her a warm welcome!

{Note from Jessica: Today’s post is shared by my dear friend Kelly Matsudaira. Kelly is passionate about personal development and reflection on life and often pops in to share words of wisdom! I hope you enjoy today’s article!}


We all know that November celebrates one of the country’s biggest holidays – Thanksgiving.

It’s a time for us to give thanks, be grateful and show our gratitude. But did you know that practicing acts of gratitude can actually improve your mental and physical health and well-being?

Many of us are so busy running around and are so caught up in our own hectic lives that we simply forget to be grateful, or just become so accustomed to our lifestyle that we take for granted who and what we have in our lives. But becoming more aware and mindful of the people and things in our lives can help improve our own well-being.

The Science Behind Gratitude

The act of being grateful and showing gratitude has recently caught the eye of doctors and scientists alike. New studies have been conducted showing the positive benefits of gratitude. The interest about this topic has even piqued the curiosity of scientists so much that the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, in collaboration with the University of California, Davis, created a three-year project costing $5.6 million to study how the act of gratitude affects areas of human health, development, relationships and our overall well-being.

Another pioneer leader and researcher in the trend of gratitude and the growing movement of “positive psychology” is Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California at Davis. He has found through his decade of research that people who adopt a permanent state of gratitude experience many health benefits. He even stresses in this article how essential it is to be grateful specifically when times get hard. Feeling and being grateful helps to heal, gives us hope and allows us to cope in stressful situations.

Positive Benefits of Being Grateful

Scientific evidence has shown that there are many health benefits, medically, mentally and emotionally, from being grateful.

Practicing gratitude can:

  • Improve the immune system
  • Improve better sleeping habits, and better quality and duration
  • Lower blood pressure, preventing heart attacks
  • Create more sustained happiness, optimism and joy
  • Create more acts of compassion and generosity
  • Help us feel less isolated or lonely, leading to better relationships and connectedness
  • Help us manage stress better and cope with difficult challenges
  • Decrease depression, stress and anxiety
  • Improve mental alertness

Three Creative Ways to Show More Gratitude

There are obvious ways to be grateful: say a daily prayer, meditate, get in the habit of saying ‘thank you,’ volunteer, help the young or elderly, or recycle. But let’s think outside the box and do something unique and fun. Here are three creative ways to show your gratitude:

  1. Pay It Forward. If you’re in line at a coffee shop or restaurant, pick up the tab for the person behind you. Or, you can do the same at a grocery store if you’re in the express lane and see that the person behind you just has a few items. You’ll feel great about yourself and make that stranger’s day, hoping that they will pay it forward to the next person.
  2. Write a personal ‘Thank You’ card. That’s right – write it out. No emails, no typing, no Photoshop. Actually hand-write a note to someone that you would like to show your gratitude to, and then mail it. It can be a friend, family member, loved one or even an author of a book that changed your life, a famous musician whose music touched your soul, or any other celebrity.
  3. Create an Appreciation Photo Album. Start taking pictures of things and people you are grateful to have in your life – your family and friends, your pets, your home, your car, your full closet of clothes and shoes, your computer, your TV and other possessions around the house, your work office or cubicle, etc. Get creative! Then once you fill it up, you can always refer back to it when you need it.

It is definitely worth cultivating a virtue of gratitude (or as some like to say, “an attitude of gratitude”) in our daily lives, and this means beyond the month of November. Try to keep this practice alive throughout the whole year, especially during challenging and difficult times, and see how your life transforms for the better!

Do you practice gratitude? Do you ever pay it forward? Leave a comment below!

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