Categories: Community3 min read

by Stephen Luther, M.D.


Harvesting Thankfulness Benefits Your Mind and Body

Thanksgiving prompts us to reflect on blessings that enrich our lives. Beyond the warmth of family, the delicious aroma of a Thanksgiving feast, and the joy of shared moments, there lies a powerful yet overlooked component of this celebration – a harvest of heartfelt thankfulness. Beyond its role in fostering a sense of appreciation, expressing gratitude is intricately linked to many mental and physical health benefits.

The Gratitude Effect

A recommended health tip from Symbios is a heaping dose of gratefulness followed by a daily intake of appreciation. Positive emotions can enhance your brain’s natural design of problem-solving. Grateful feelings of delight trigger chemicals that prompt your brain to release neurotransmitters and feel-good hormones such as serotonin, dopamine, neuropeptides, oxytocin, and endomorphs.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of well-being and relaxation that can be attributed to better sleep quality. Numerous studies have highlighted the positive correlation between gratitude and improved sleep when we embrace a thankful mindset; it seems to function as a natural sedative, calming the mind and promoting a peaceful sleep period.

Dopamine contributes to a sense of pleasure and reinforces the connection between gratitude and emotional resilience. Expressing thanks has been shown to boost mood and elevate mental well-being. When we take a moment to acknowledge and appreciate the favorable aspects of our lives, the brain responds by releasing dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter.

Neuropeptides enhance immune cell function and shield against illnesses. Gratitude extends its healing touch to our physical health by releasing neuropeptides. Individuals who regularly feel grateful exhibit strengthened immune systems with an optimistic shift in attitude and more capability to thwart sickness.

Oxytocin fosters social bonding and reduces anxiety, making Thanksgiving more than a feast. It is an opportunity to feel grateful and prompt the release of oxytocin to diminish the shadows of depression. Gratitude has been linked to lower levels of these mental health challenges. The neurotransmitter serotonin, also associated with thankfulness, plays a pivotal role in mood regulation and mitigating the effects of depression.

Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers and can be triggered by the positive emotions of thankfulness. Those navigating the complexities of chronic pain may find gratitude as a beacon of relief. Studies suggest that individuals who cultivate a positive disposition experience reduced pain perception, a phenomenon often attributed to the release of endorphins.

Cortisol, a stress hormone, can be tempered with feelings of gratitude and appreciation. By reducing stress and inflammation, the impact of gratitude extends to our long-term health, thus contributing to a lower risk of chronic disease.

Thankfulness is a feeling of gratitude that comes from appreciating things that add meaning to your life.

Finding Thankfulness

  • Simple moments of gratitude come in many forms, such as a kind word, an encouraging check-up, a refreshing stroll, or a laugh with a friend.
  • Nature surrounds us with blessings such as a bird’s song or a sunrise on the beach; we only need to zoom in long enough to appreciate them.
  • Cheerful reminders from journaling grateful thoughts allow time for reflection and can help you redirect your feelings in unpleasant situations.
  • Focus on being content; avoid delaying feelings in anticipation of future events, such as retirement or a trip.
  • If you say a routine thanks, pause, pinpoint, and cherish the source of your appreciation.
  • Uncover thankfulness lost in negativity or pushed into the background.
  • Share your gratitude around the table this Thanksgiving. Develop a tradition of encouraging family and friends to share their grateful experiences over a meal.

Symbios wishes you and your family a blessed Thanksgiving.


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