For many college students Thanksgiving break is the time to cherish home-cooked meals before the battle of finals begins. But research has shown that giving thanks can actually increase health and happiness. This type of “positive psychology” is relatively new in the psychology field. This branch tends to focus more on happiness and what was done right as opposed to dysfunction and abnormal behavior or what was done wrong and what should have been done in any situation.
One study done at the University of California randomly assigned participants to three tasks; each week the participants kept a short journal. One group had to briefly describe five things they were grateful for that occurred in the past week, another group had to record daily hassles that upset them and the control group was just asked to write down five events that affected them, but they were not told whether to focus on the positive or the negative. Ten weeks later, the participants in the gratitude group felt better about their lives as a whole, were 25% happier than the hassled group, reported fewer health complaints and exercised an average of 1.5 hours more. Many more studies have been done to following the same procedure of writing down things that participants are grateful for and the results are the same: people feel happier and healthier about their lives.
While most people will not take the time to write these positive things down, even just thinking them can have the same outcome. These things don’t have to be big, life altering events; they can be as simple as the leaves changing colors or pierogies in Cav’s Corner. Psychologists say to look at this as an emotional reset button. You’re taking control of your emotions when you stop to count your blessings. So whether it’s because you have a home cooked meal, a few days off from school, or you just have time to sleep, actually stopping to have gratitude for these things will literally make you happy that you did.