FAMILY, FRIENDS, GOOD FOOD, a home, the kindness of others: These are the things we acknowledge around the Thanksgiving table—or, sometimes, after everyone’s gone home and the dishes are done and we can also be grateful for a coffee table to put our feet on. We know, inherently, that it’s a good thing to take stock of what’s going right in our world—and now scientists are saying that doing so can boost our physical health as much as our mental state or relationships.
Studies have linked living a thankful life to fewer aches and pains, better sleep, and more. “Making gratitude a daily practice is like giving yourself a vitamin,” says David DeSteno, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Northeastern University in Boston and author of the forthcoming book Emotional
Success. He’s not being hyperbolic: He means it’s like an actual vitamin, making your body work better. And the deep, longlasting power of gratitude is blissfully simple to harness.
It helps to know that when experts talk about gratitude, they mean more than saying thank you, the way you’ve been taught since you were old enough to speak. “Gratitude is affirming the goodness in one’s life and recognizing that its source lies outside the self,” says Robert Emmons, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and author of The Little Book