Thanksgiving and 6-Dimensional Wellness: Fostering Gratitude This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving and 6-Dimensional Wellness: Fostering Gratitude This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving and 6-Dimensional Wellness: Fostering Gratitude This Thanksgiving 

The holiday season is upon us, and with it comes Thanksgiving - a time for reflecting on what we are grateful for in life. While the focus is often on feasting and family, Thanksgiving can also be an opportunity to cultivate gratitude and enhance our well-being. In fact, practicing gratitude aligns with several dimensions of wellness and can be a simple yet powerful way to care for ourselves this Thanksgiving

In this post, we'll explore how gratitude intersects with the six dimensions of wellness - physical, mental, social, spiritual, emotional, and environmental. We'll also provide tips for integrating gratitude practices into your Thanksgiving celebrations to support greater joy, meaning, and flourishing. 

Why Gratitude Is Important? 

Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated in the United States and Canada to give thanks for the blessings of the past year. At the core of this holiday is cultivating an attitude of gratitude[1]. When we take time to express gratitude, we acknowledge all that we have been given - our health, family, friends, a roof over our heads, and food on the table. 

Developing gratitude encourages us to focus on life's abundance rather than scarcities. It reminds us of how fortunate we truly are despite any challenges. Taking time on Thanksgiving to express thanks through prayer, songs, and conversations around the dinner table helps us appreciate both large and small gifts in our lives[2]

Feelings of gratitude have also been shown to have mental and physical health benefits[3]. When we are grateful, we tend to feel more positive emotions like joy, and less negative ones such as stress or depression. 

This can lower blood pressure and boost immunity. An attitude of gratitude has even been linked to greater life satisfaction[4]. On Thanksgiving, making gratitude the focus shifts our mindset from what we lack to appreciating what we have. 

This encourages perspective-taking and helps us embrace a thankful spirit throughout the year. Taking time for gratitude is what makes Thanksgiving a holiday worth celebrating. 

Thanksgiving is rooted in history, tradition, the expression of gratitude, reflection, and the celebration of abundance with Family and Friends.

Physical Wellness 

Physical wellness involves caring for our bodily health through nutrition, exercise, sleep, and self-care. Thanksgiving is notorious for overindulging, from heaping plates of food to lounging

on the couch for a full day of football. But with mindful attention, we can balance pleasure and moderation. 

Focusing on gratitude for our body can enhance physical wellness[5]. Appreciating our strength, energy levels, and ability to move helps motivate us to care for this precious gift. Pausing before the feast to give thanks for the bounty and those who prepared it also enables more mindful eating. 

Here are some tips for cultivating gratitude to support physical wellness this Thanksgiving[5]

  • Start Thanksgiving day with movement - whether a walk, stretch, or yoga flow - and reflect on gratitude for your body. 
  • Practice mindful eating by pausing before meals, savoring each bite, and appreciating the nourishment. 
  • Offer thanks out loud before passing dishes to remind yourself and others of gratitude. 
  • Express appreciation to those who prepared food as you partake. 
  • Volunteer to help clean up after the meal to integrate movement. 
  • Share leftovers with others in your community as an act of gratitude.

Mental Wellness 

Mental wellness includes taking care of our mind, thoughts, and intellect. It's about understanding ourselves, growing in knowledge, and engaging our creativity. Gratitude practices are linked to improved mental wellness - including better focus, memory, and ability to manage stress or anxiety[6]

Here are some ways to leverage gratitude to enhance mental wellness during Thanksgiving[6]

  • Start a gratitude journal or list and spend time each day reflecting on people, experiences, or things you are grateful for. 
  • Write thank you notes to hosts, family members, or friends and share specific things you appreciate about them. 
  • Learn more about Thanksgiving history and traditions and reflect on gratitude for freedoms and cultural gifts. 
  • Play gratitude games like naming 3 new things you're grateful for during shared meals. 
  • Close your eyes during prayer or reflection and truly take in the people, places, and gifts surrounding you. 

Social Wellness 

Social wellness includes nurturing positive relationships and connections with others. It involves building community and the ability to interact with people in a healthy, fulfilling way.

Giving thanks helps strengthen social wellness by deepening bonds and cultivating prosocial skills like generosity[6]. Here are some ideas: 

  • Go around the Thanksgiving table and take turns sharing something you're grateful for. 
  • Express gratitude face-to-face with individuals at the gathering and share your appreciation for them. 
  • Phone family or friends who couldn't make it to share gratitude for them on Thanksgiving. 
  • Write handwritten thank you notes after the gathering to continue expressing gratitude. 
  • Post on social media about people and things you're grateful for (while still being present during the gathering!). 
  • Look for opportunities to help others through acts of service and generosity during Thanksgiving. 

Spiritual Wellness 

Spiritual wellness involves our sense of meaning and purpose in life, as well as connection to something greater than ourselves. It means nurturing inner peace and exploring beliefs, values, and a sense of identity. 

Giving thanks facilitates spiritual wellness by helping us recognize sources of meaning, hope, and strength within our lives[7][8]. Here are some spiritual practices to try: 

  • Reflect on why you chose to celebrate Thanksgiving in this particular place and with these people. Appreciate having the freedom and ability to gather in this way. 
  • Take a quiet walk alone on Thanksgiving and practice gratitude for places and people who have profoundly shaped you. 
  • Write a thank you letter to God, the universe, or a spiritual force, expressing gratitude for gifts, growth and grace. 
  • Pray aloud with others to magnify shared gratitude. Or offer silent prayers of thankfulness for togetherness. 
  • Sing or recite spiritual songs or poems centered on gratitude. Let the words soak into your spirit. 

Emotional Wellness 

Emotional wellness includes acknowledging and comfortably expressing our feelings as well as maintaining fulfilling relationships[6]. It's about resilience, self-esteem, and learning to manage life's ups and downs. 

Gratitude helps support emotional health by enabling us to focus on and savor positive experiences[6]. It bolsters resilience when facing stress or trials.

  • Share vulnerable conversations during Thanksgiving gatherings - express caring, apology, forgiveness, or hopes and dreams. 
  • Give thanks for difficult relationships and the ways they make you stronger, wiser, and more compassionate. 
  • Appreciate your emotions - even uncomfortable ones - as important signals about your well-being. 
  • Write thank you notes to yourself - list things you did well or are proud of in the past year. Recognize your strengths. 
  • Take time alone to get centered amid the busyness and reflect on things you are sincerely grateful for. 

Environmental Wellness 

Environmental wellness means recognizing how our environment impacts us and taking steps to care for the planet. It's about contributing to sustaining natural resources and finding a balance between human needs and ecosystem needs. 

Gratitude helps spur environmental action by reminding us of interconnectedness and motivating us to protect shared gifts[9]. Some ideas: 

  • Give thanks before meals for the earth's bounty and those who farmed and distributed it. 
  • Minimize food waste by planning intentional leftovers and composting scraps to nourish the soil. 
  • Donate to or volunteer with environmental groups as a way to express gratitude for nature's gifts. 
  • Spend time outside on Thanksgiving - appreciate fresh air, trees turning autumn hues, and parks to gather in. 
  • Share thanks for past generations who protected wilderness areas, clean water, and more that we benefit from today. 
  • Commit to simple daily actions - limiting plastics, biking instead of driving, eating less meat - as acts of gratitude to sustain the planet. 


This Thanksgiving provides a meaningful opportunity to cultivate gratitude - for loved ones, comforts, freedoms, and experiences[10]. Integrating simple gratitude practices into your holiday celebrations can enhance wellness across all dimensions - physical, mental, social, spiritual, emotional, and environmental[10]. The benefits of thankfulness extend far beyond the holiday too. Sustaining gratitude year-round through journaling, meditation, daily reflection, and giving back cultivates profound joy and well-being. Let's make thankfulness an integral part of self-care!


[1] Emmons, Robert A., and Teresa T. Kneezel. "Giving thanks: Spiritual and religious correlates of gratitude." Journal of Psychology & Christianity 24.2 (2005). 

[2] Tudge, Jonathan RH, and Lia BL Freitas. "Developing gratitude: An introduction." Developing gratitude in children and adolescents (2018): 1-22. 

[3] Boggiss, Anna L., et al. "A systematic review of gratitude interventions: Effects on physical health and health behaviors." Journal of Psychosomatic Research 135 (2020): 110165. 

[4] Gabana, Nicole T., et al. "Attitude of gratitude: Exploring the implementation of a gratitude intervention with college athletes." Journal of Applied Sport Psychology 31.3 (2019): 273-284. 

[5] Mills, Paul J et al. “The Role of Gratitude in Spiritual Well-being in Asymptomatic Heart Failure Patients.” Spirituality in clinical practice (Washington, D.C.) vol. 2,1 (2015): 5-17. doi:10.1037/scp0000050 

[6] Sansone, Randy A, and Lori A Sansone. “Gratitude and well being: the benefits of appreciation.” Psychiatry (Edgmont (Pa. : Township)) vol. 7,11 (2010): 18-22. 

[7] Ferenczi, Andrea et al. “Gratitude, Religiousness and Well-Being.” Psychiatria Danubina vol. 33,Suppl 4 (2021): 827-832. 

[8] Beese, Rebecca J, and Deborah Ringdahl. “Enhancing Spiritually Based Care Through Gratitude Practices: A Health-Care Improvement Project.” Creative nursing vol. 24,1 (2018): 42-51. doi:10.1891/1078-4535.24.1.42 

[9] Chang, Katherine Ka Pik et al. “The Impact of the Environment on the Quality of Life and the Mediating Effects of Sleep and Stress.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 17,22 8529. 17 Nov. 2020, doi:10.3390/ijerph17228529 

[10] Emmons, Robert A., and Cheryl A. Crumpler. "Gratitude as a human strength: Appraising the evidence." Journal of social and clinical psychology 19.1 (2000): 56-69.

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