The Big Questions

Life, death and free will.

Give Thanks, and be Happier!

Counting Your Blessings and Feeling Better

Thanksgiving is a time for thanks and appreciation (it says so right in the title!). Research suggests that this tradition could  increase our long term happiness - and possibly even improve our physical health.

Sonja Lyubomirksy, professor of psychology at the University of California Riverside, suggests that as much as 40% of our happiness is determined by our deliberative actions (as opposed to genetics or life situations; Lyubomirksy, 2008). A deliberative action that seems to have a very strong effect is practicing gratitude

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Several studies (e.g., Emmons & McCullough, 2003) have explored the role of "counting one's blessings" in happiness. These studies show that counting one's blessings may have long term benefits on happiness. Specifically, people who were randomly assigned to count their blessings (compared to their burdens) felt better about their future and had more positive emotions overall. They also reported less headaches and dizziness.

So as you sit around stuffing your face with turkey and stuffing, take some time to partake in an old Thanksgiving tradtion: practicing thanks. You might just find yourself happier, and even healthier.


Emmons, R., & McCullough, M. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal ofPersonality and Social Psychology, 84, 377-389.

Lyubomirksky, S. (2008). The how of happiness: A scientific approach to getting the life you want. New York: Penguin Press.


Nathan Heflick completed his Ph.D. in social psychology at The University of South Florida.


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