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11/19/2015

The Mental Health Benefits of Celebrating Thanksgiving

There is a lot to like about Thanksgiving, for instance the food, spending time with family, sharing what you are thankful for, but did you know it also benefits your mental health?

Lets start with being thankful:

According to article by Harvard Med School,

“Gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, and build strong relationships” (2010).

There have been numerous studies completed that show people who take 5 minutes out of their day to list the things they are grateful for “experienced greater levels of optimism, positive, mood, and feelings of belongingness” compared to those who do not.

There has also been research done that looks at how gratitude improves relationships. “A study of couples found that individuals who took time to express gratitude for their partner felt more positive toward the other person and also felt more comfortable expressing their concerns” (Harvard Med School, 2011). Not only does expressing gratitude improve intimate relationships, but in general, friends, bosses, and significant others who express gratitude build stronger relationships compared to those who do not.

Preparing the Thanksgiving meal can also benefit your mental health:

“Psychologists say cooking and baking are pursuits that fit a type of therapy known as behavioral activation” (WSJ, 2015). Cooking and baking classes are on the rise and becoming increasing popular in mental health settings for alleviating depression and anxiety. For some people the act of cooking is calming and distracts them from their everyday stressors. Others feel a sense of joy and accomplishment witnessing their loved ones consume the meal they worked so hard on to prepare. The mental health benefits do not stop at just cooking the turkey. One study published by the British Journal of Occupational Therapy found that “baking classes boosted confidence, increased concentration, and provided a sense of achievement” (2004). So this Thanksgiving when you see a loved one working hard preparing a meal in the kitchen lend them a hand or devour their meal in order to aid in their sense of accomplishment.

Spending time with friends and family is another important way in which Thanksgiving can boost your mental health:

There have been many studies done that show how social relationships benefit mental health. Those who report having satisfying relationships with family and friends are more likely to be happier have fewer health problems and live longer. According to an article by Harvard Medical School “a lack of social ties is associated with depression, later life cognitive decline, and increased mortality” (2010). In order for relationships to be beneficial they must provide emotional and social support. Unsatisfying relationships can be just as harmful as not have any relationships at all. Important relationships are beneficial because they reduce the impact of stress, provide meaning, and enhance life satisfaction.

“Laboratory studies show that when subjects are subjected to stress, emotional support reduces the usual sharp rise in blood pressure and increased secretion of damaging stress related hormones” (Stress.org, 2015).

Although the holidays can be stressful, supportive friends and family can have a counter effect!

It is nice to show your gratitude, cook a meal, and spend time with family on Thanksgiving, but these activities can take place throughout the year. The more these activities are implemented into weekly routines the easier it is to experience the benefits and increase your overall well being.

 

happythanksgiving

 

Harvard Health Publications. (2010). In Praise of Gratitude. Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude

Harvard Health Publications. (2010). The Health Benefits of Strong Relationships. Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/the-health- benefits-of-strong-relationships

The American Institute of Stress. (2015). Emotional and Social Support. Retrieved from http://www.stress.org/emotional-and-social-support/

The Wallstreet Journal. (2014). A Road to Mental Health Through the Kitchen. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-road-to-mental-health-through-the-kitchen- 1418059204