November 25, 2019

An “Attitude of Gratitude” is Good for Your Health

On October 3rd, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln, amidst the Civil War issued a Proclamation of Thanksgiving which began:  

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come…” 

Through this proclamation, Abraham Lincoln set the standard for our national holiday of Thanksgiving; long-celebrated as a time to gather with loved ones and share good food and company, while reflecting on our own personal ‘fruitful fields and healthful skies’ that have graced us throughout the year. What Lincoln likely did not realize, is that these two sentences lay out the definition of gratitude.  

So, what is gratitude? According to researcher Robert Emmons, gratitude has two key components

  1. Acknowledging Goodness - When Lincoln spoke of ‘fruitful fields and healthful skies’ what he was really doing was noticing the goodness that surrounds him.  
  2. Recognizing the Source of Goodness - We can be our own source of goodness, but an important part of experiencing true gratitude is the ability to look outside of yourself and see the goodness in others and in your surroundings

Practicing gratitude is lovely to do this time of year, as research shows that cultivating an ‘attitude of gratitude’ has long-ranging positive health outcomes for adults and kids alike.  

A gratitude practice can:  

  • Improve sleep 
  • Boost our mood 
  • Strengthen our immune system 
  • Improve heart health  
  • Support productivity   
Try these science-backed ways to infuse gratitude into your life 
  • Write It Down - Use a notebook, scratch paper, or even your smartphone to jot down what you're grateful for. Writing down our thoughts can reinforce our feelings and help us reap the full benefits of gratitude.  
  • Go for a Mindful Walk - Head outside for a quiet stroll and notice the sights, sounds, and smells around you. By filling yourself with a sense of awe, you can inspire a feeling of gratitude. 
  • Set a Gratitude Alarm - Use your smartphone, computer, or alarm clock to remind yourself to give thanks. Set your alarm for the same time each day to develop a habit with staying power. 

Remember: gratitude is for everyone – adults, adolescents, and young children can all express thanks – and infusing gratitude into your daily routine requires only a few minutes of time. Take it from me: I ask my 4-year-old and 2-year-old to share something they are thankful for every night, and the responses are both hilarious and heart-warming.  

What are you grateful for today? Let me know on Twitter at @ecook_SEH! 

From all of us at Healthier Generation, we are truly grateful for your support and hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. 


P.S. Another great way to express gratitude is by sharing goodness with others! With your help, we can continue to support the health and well-being of children and families across the country, in every cafeteria and at every dinner table. Make a donation today to build a #HealthyFuture for all. 

Elizabeth Cook

Senior Director, Whole Child Health