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1 big thing: The power of active gratitude

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Whether we spend our time dwelling on things we're grateful for or noodling on things that upset us matters.

🖼️ The big picture: Shifting our attitudes to focus on giving thanks — not just during the holiday — has a direct link to our wellbeing.

💼 Case in point: In one study, psychologists recruited a group of participants and asked half to take time weekly to write a few sentences about things they were grateful for from that week. The other half wrote about irritations or complaints.

  • After 10 weeks, the group that centered on gratitude felt more optimistic about life than their counterparts.
  • The gratitude group saw physical changes as well. They exercised more and made fewer doctor visits than the group that focused on the negative aspects of life.

Another study by researchers from Kent State University tested the effect of writing letters of gratitude to other people.

  • The results were clear: Taking the time to say thank you in writing made people happier, more satisfied with life and even decreased symptoms of depression.

The bottom line: We feel grateful for all sorts of blessings in life, but most of us rarely take the time to think about those things — let alone write them down.

  • But studies show that taking an active approach to gratitude can have tangible and lasting effects on our mental wellbeing.
  • Try it!

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💌 Gratitude challenge

If you have a few minutes amid holiday preparations in the next 24 hours, write a couple sentences about something big or small you're grateful for in your life.

  • Send us your thoughts, including your name and hometown, to [email protected].
  • We'll feature a selection of responses in a special gratitude edition Wednesday night.