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Gratitude: It's Not Just For Thanksgiving

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Family gatherings are supposed to be happy occasions, but a 2009 survey by Harris Interactive found 90 percent of Americans feel anxiety and stress during the holidays, and 77 percent reported holiday family gatherings increased their stress.

On Thanksgiving Day, amid the chaos and clatter, the turkey and pumpkin pie, the football (or Downton Abbey) marathon, family chats, Black Friday strategic planning sessions — and little Johnny spilling his drink on Aunt Judy’s prized rug — try to find the time to be grateful.

A growing body of research over the last decade confirms that having an “attitude for gratitude” can be the secret to achieving successful relationships, feeling happiness —even improving your health.

Research shows adults who frequently feel gratitude are more energetic, confident, optimistic, and have more social connections than those who don’t.

Thankful people are also less likely to get depressed or become envious, greedy or alcoholic. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise regularly and have fewer viral infections.

There are similar benefits for children and adolescents too.

Research led by Dr. Jeffrey J. Froh, an assistant professor of psychology at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., found that kids who feel, and in turn, act grateful, tend to set higher goals, achieve better grades, and complain of fewer headaches and stomach aches. They are more likely to feel higher levels of satisfaction with friends and family and are less materialistic than their less grateful peers.

In fact, increasing one’s feelings of gratitude can improve a person’s overall well-being and quality of life, according to University of California-Davis Psychology Professor Robert Emmons, a pioneer in gratitude research.

Emmons and University of Miami psychologist Michael McCullough’s 2003 landmark study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, showed that counting your blessings can actually improve your overall health.

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