13 Ways Thanksgiving Seriously Boosts Your Health

The Challenge: Thanksgiving can feel like an over-indulgence or even stressful.
The Science: Researchers have found that Thanksgiving is extraordinarily healthful!
The Solution: Here are 13 ways Thanksgiving can significantly boost your health & happiness!

Thanksgiving and the holidays come along – for some, it involves stressful family times or travel; for others, it’s a time of celebration; for others, it’s loneliness. Many think that Thanksgiving may actually negatively impact their health: think killer mashed potatoes, gravy, and pecan pie! Yum!

Well, scientific studies suggest you enjoy yourself and don’t worry too much because thanks-giving has 13 powerful benefits for your health & happiness. That’s right, the act of giving thanks and feeling gratitude leads to tremendous benefits:


1 – Increases your Happiness. Counting your blessings leads to heightened well-being, especially a positive mood (and who couldn’t use more of that?) (ref1. refref3).

2 – Bring you Happiness that Lasts. In fact, an attitude of gratitude can not only help you increase positive emotion but also sustain it. Heck, ice cream can make us happy in the moment, but gratitude leads to long-term happiness (ref)

3 – Protects you from Stress and Negativity. Gratitude is associated with decreased anxiety and depression and increased social support (ref)

4 – Reduces Your Materialism. One reason gratitude boosts our well-being is that it reduces materialism (ref), which is a good thing because materialism is linked to less happiness (ref)


5 – Makes you more socially intelligent (ref)

6 – Leads to better relationships. Gratitude strengthens your relationships and helps you create and maintain good relationships and feel more connected (ref1 and ref2 and ref3 and ref4)

7 – Makes you Sexier. Gratitude improves romantic relationships by making people feel more satisfied in their relationships and connected to their partner (ref)


8 – It Even Improves Sleep Quality and Duration– in part because you have more grateful/happy thoughts before you go to sleep (ref). Count blessings, not sheep?

9 – Strengthens Your Willpower to Make Better Decisions Gratitude makes you stronger and helps you achieve your goals (ref) and make smarter long-term decisions (ref)

10 – Benefits you at all ages, from adolescence to adulthood (ref)


11 – Makes you a better person. It makes us better, more altruistic, moral, and ethical people (ref1 and ref2). We become more helpful and kind to others (ref)

12 – Makes others better people too: those we thank are more likely to become more ethical people too (ref1 and ref2)

13 – Makes the World a Better Place. When you express your gratitude to someone, that person will go on to be kinder to others (ref)

Don’t feel grateful? No worries! It’s accessible to anyone. Whether we’re sick or well, old or young, employed or unemployed, if our heart is beating, the air is flowing in our lungs, and we have had a meal today, we have something to be grateful for. “Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a Rather Large Amount of Gratitude” (A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh).

Putting it Into Practice

Here are some simple ways to strengthen your thanking muscle:

  1. Use Thanksgiving as a true opportunity to give thanks, to feel gratitude for all the gifts you have received in your life, and to express that gratitude to those who have contributed to your life.
  2. A powerful way scientists have found can increase your well-being is simply making daily gratitude lists. Write down 5 things you feel grateful for every day. This simple (and short!) act can significantly increase your happiness.
  3. Another way you can boost your gratitude is by spending a few minutes out of your day devoted to gratitude. Here’s a gratitude meditation I put together that you can download and try for yourself today. Let me know how it works out for you, and share your experience in the comment section below!
  4. And finally, here’s a video by Brother David Steindl-Ross that I love that never fails to elicit gratitude.
Verónica Caridad Rabelo
Verónica Caridad Rabelo is a PhD Candidate in Psychology (Personality & Social Contexts) and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Overall, her research interests include social identity and mistreatment in the workplace. Her current projects investigate gender identity and leadership emergence; sexual assault in the U.S. military; workplace harassment on the basis of gender and sexual orientation; and mindfulness and compassion among stigmatized employees. Verónica is a proud alumna of Williams College, where her passion for social justice and feminist psychology first sparked. In her spare time, Verónica enjoys doing puzzles, practicing yoga, and spending time in the sun.
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