Thankful Thursday: What If Thanksgiving Came Every Week?
Practicing thankfulness every week—or better yet, every day—can boost your mood, strengthen your relationships, and even help you sleep better.
What is thankful Thursday?
Whether or not you’re feasting with family this year, Thanksgiving is a reminder to count your blessings. And it turns out taking time to say or write down what you’re thankful for can have lasting perks. A gratitude practice has science-backed benefits for your mind and body.
So how do you keep the Thanksgiving vibes going? Some people take part in “Thankful Thursday.” The catchy hashtag is a reminder to shout out something you’re thankful for on social media. It’s almost like a weekly mini-Thanksgiving.
There are several ways (and reasons!) to start a gratitude practice this year. Below, licensed mental health counselors Rachna Buxani-Mirpuri and Roseann Capanna-Hodge weigh in.
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4 benefits of Thankful Thursday
Here’s what Bixani-Mirpuri and Capanna-Hodge had to say about the science-backed benefits of gratitude.
Gratitude leads to positive thinking
“Studies have found that gratitude journaling can significantly increase [people’s] optimism levels,” says Buxani-Mirpuri.
Optimism can be a tricky thing to measure, but a clinical trial of 1,337 participants published in the medical journal Frontiers in Psychology tried to do just that. For 14 days, one-third of the participants listed moments they had been grateful for during each day. At the end of the study, the gratitude group scored higher on happiness and satisfaction—and lower on depression symptoms—than the other two groups.
Gratitude could improve your mental health
Developing an attitude of gratitude might sound like a softball strategy for mental health, but Buxani-Mirpuri says it can reduce levels of depression and anxiety. Focusing on what you’re thankful for helps change your thought processes, thus resulting in a more positive mood.
“By reducing negative biases and looking at things more realistically … people feel better,” she says.
Gratitude strengthens your relationships
It’s no secret that smiling can make you seem more attractive and approachable. The same can be said for expressing gratitude. Telling your loved ones that you’re grateful for them makes them feel good about themselves, says Capanna-Hodge.
People also tend to gravitate toward those who seem upbeat and supportive, according to Buxani-Mirpuri.
Showing gratitude can strengthen the bonds between friends and family, but it’s also a useful career strategy. “Appreciative people are viewed as thoughtful, trustworthy, and positive,” Capanna-Hodge says.
Gratitude could make you healthier
The more you practice gratitude, the more equipped you are to manage daily stressors, according to Capanna-Hodge. Stress can trigger a host of health problems, from hives to unhealthy weight gain. While bad stress has negative ripple effects, a gratitude practice can have remarkably positive domino effects.
Studies are still limited on the health benefits of gratitude. Based on their research and experiences with clients, Buxani-Mirpuri and Capanna-Hodge say a gratitude practice could:
- promote better sleep
- reduce inflammation
- lower blood pressure
- reduce depression in people experiencing chronic illness
- help you focus on activities that improve your mental and physical health
How to start a personal gratitude practice
First things first: Take a moment to think about the people, places, and things that bring you joy. Simply focusing on what uplifts you will shift your mind toward gratitude.
“Experiencing gratitude always begins with being mindful,” says Buxani-Mirpuri. “Just noticing and acknowledging can be … very powerful.”
Practicing gratitude will look different from person to person. The premise is simple—it’s the commitment to repeated action that takes time and effort.
“The biggest misconception about gratitude is that it is something that you can do once in a while,” explains Capanna-Hodge. “You need to integrate small gratitude practices into your life in order for your brain to shift.”
Keep reading for tips to get the most out of Thanksgiving, Thankful Thursday, or a daily gratitude practice.
Set aside time
Settling on a vague notion that you want to be more thankful isn’t enough. Make it a true commitment by carving out a few minutes each day to cultivate your new attitude of gratitude.
“Healthy habits don’t just happen; they take time to develop. And they develop more quickly when you incorporate them into your routine,” says Capanna-Hodge.
Whether you write a gratitude list in the morning or tell your partner what you were thankful for at the end of each day, set a specific time for consistency. Capanna-Hodge also recommends saying “I’m grateful for…” out loud to another person at least once each day.
Start a gratitude journal
Journaling comes more naturally to some people than others. But even if you have never kept a diary, writing down what you’re thankful for is an easy, concrete way to keep a gratitude practice.
“I absolutely subscribe to gratitude journaling and have seen my clients benefit immensely from them,” says Buxani-Mirpuri.
There are dozens of gratitude journals on the market, but any notebook will do. There’s also no right or wrong way to record your thoughts. Some people enjoy waxing eloquent about heartwarming moments in their day.
Others simply keep a bullet journal of their blessings. The point is to develop a habit you can stick with, says Capanna-Hodge.
Share your gratitude journey with others
At some point in your life, you’ve probably experienced the power of accountability. Maybe you exercise with the help of a weight loss buddy. Or perhaps you completed Dry January because a friend did it with you. Your gratitude practice is personal, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be a secret. Thankful Thursday is a group exercise, after all!
“Let people know you’re working on being more grateful,” Capanna-Hodge recommends. “When we declare our goals, they are more likely to happen.” Plus, she says friends and family might want to join in with their own gratitude journal or Thankful Thursday posts.
Turn your gratitude into action
Something special happens when we start paying close attention to the ordinary gifts in our lives. Dark clouds lift. Attitudes shift. You might realize that, just as others’ actions affect you, you can influence the world for better.
Acts of kindness are practical ways to express gratitude, according to Buxani-Mirpuri. She suggests verbally thanking people for their role in your life, showing up to support friends going through a rough patch, or signing up to volunteer at a local nonprofit organization.
Think about it this way: People have given you reasons to be thankful for them, so why not return the favor?
When gratitude isn’t enough
The opposite of gratitude is ungratefulness—not depression or anxiety. If you are struggling with mental illness or a mood disorder, gratitude can help, but it is not a cure.
Buxani-Mirpuri emphasizes that even the most thoughtful, consistent gratitude practice is not a substitute for therapy. All the Thankful Thursday posts in the world will not erase post-traumatic stress disorder or a chemical imbalance.
Practicing gratitude is also not the same thing as pretending that all is well all the time. Pressure to act thankful that your situation isn’t worse can lead to guilt, frustration, and pain, according to Buxani-Mirpuri. That’s not genuine gratitude. It’s toxic positivity.
“Gratitude is about appreciating the lesson in whatever hardships come while still connecting to emotions such as grief, sadness [or] irritation,” says Capanna-Hodge.
- Roseann Capanna-Hodge, EdD, LPC, BCN, integrative and pediatric mental health expert
- Rachna Buxani-Mirpuri, LMHC, NCC, BC-TMH, mental health counselor and founder of Buxani Counseling Care
- Health Psychology Journal: "Gratitude uniquely predicts lower depression in chronic illness populations: A longitudinal study of inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis"
- Brain, Behavior, and Immunity: "Exploring neural mechanisms of the health benefits of gratitude in women: A randomized controlled trial"
- Frontiers in Psychology: "Positive Psychology and Gratitude Interventions: A Randomized Clinical Trial"