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Written By: DiveThru Team

Reviewed By: Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW


Feeling Thankful: A Guide to Your Emotions

PUBLISHED Dec 22nd, 2020 & UPDATED ON Feb 6th, 2023

Okay, we gotta admit being thankful is a pretty great feeling to have. Whether we’re having a bad day or the BEST DAY EVER, it’s nice to pause from time to time and think about what we’re thankful for. It reminds us of all the simple things that bring us joy and peace, even when it’s hard not to focus on all of the negatives. You know those days when you’re super grateful for all that you have and just wanna shout from the rooftops: “I LOVE MY LIIIFE!”? Yeah, we should talk about that feeling. ‘Cause it’s underrated.

Maybe today, you’re feeling thankful for your amazing group of friends who always give you A+ advice when you feel lost. Or maybe your partner made your favourite meal without being asked (mac ‘n cheese with breadcrumbs on top, because you’re fancy like that). It could be that you’re thankful for your pet who loves to curl up beside you on the couch, making your heart melt into a little puddle. To sum it up: recognizing all of the things we’re thankful for, no matter how big or small, is the BEST.

And just because feeling thankful is a positive emotion, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the time to acknowledge it. When we feel negative emotions, we’re always looking for ways to work through it and feel better. But in this case, let’s just enjoy feeling thankful and learn not only how it contributes to our wellbeing, but how we can show gratitude on a regular basis!

A Deeper Look at Feeling Thankful

When we think of being thankful, the word ‘gratitude’ also comes to mind. APA Dictionary of Psychology defines gratitude as: “n. a sense of thankfulness and happiness in response to receiving a gift, either a tangible benefit (e.g., a present, favor) given by someone or a fortunate happenstance (e.g., a beautiful day).” Fun fact: gratitude is derived from the Latin word ‘gratia’ which means thankfulness or gratefulness. So yeah, the two go hand in hand!

Feeling thankful is a pretty powerful feeling. Basically, that nice feeling you get when your neighbor shovels your driveway after it snows, a stranger lets you cut ahead of them in line at the grocery store, or you just happen to notice how beautiful the blue sky is? All of these little things add up and remind us of the good things in life, which makes us all warm and fuzzy inside. And taking the time to really appreciate and absorb this feeling in the moment, makes allll the difference! In fact, feeling thankful has so many benefits for your mental health, physical health, and your overall wellbeing that we just can’t let it go to waste!

How Feeling Thankful Shows Up Mentally

Sooo it turns out feeling thankful and showing gratitude has long lasting effects on the brain and nervous system. When we show gratitude for the things we’re thankful for, it actually releases two different neurotransmitters in our brain: dopamine and serotonin. FYI, these make us feel reallyyy good and boost our mood. Feeling thankful can also reduce signs of stress, anxiety, depression or any toxic emotions we might be experiencing. Not to mention, feeling thankful boosts your self-esteem and makes you less likely to compare yourself to other people. ‘Cause duh, you’re thankful for what you’ve got! 

Plus, when we show gratitude and kindness to other people, they will defs take notice. So by being thankful and showing gratitude in our lives, we can attract healthy relationships that last! It’s really a win-win.

Right now you’re probably thinking: WOW, so expressing gratitude and reminding myself of what I’m thankful for is actually great for my mental health and wellbeing? Yeppp, that’s exactly what we’re saying. Count your blessings and let those happy hormones flowww!

How Feeling Thankful Show Up Physically

How does feeling thankful show up physically? It turns out, in some super beneficial ways! Studies have shown that expressing gratitude can improve your sleep because it activates the hypothalamus, which regulates our sleep so we can catch those ZZZs and feel well rested.

And since it reduces stress like we mentioned, showing gratitude will mean you’re less likely to experience symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, respiratory infections and other health problems. Instead, you just get all of those feel-good hormones we talked about pumping through your body. Basically, your immune system will thank YOU for being so damn thankful!

Another thing! In a recent study, women who wrote in a gratitude journal showed lower blood pressure compared to those who just wrote about daily events. So yeah, feeling thankful can warm your heart AND keep it healthy. Who knew?!

5 Ways to Recognize That You’re Feeling Thankful

So when we’re feelin’ thankful, how should we acknowledge this emotion and how great it really is? Great question. Here’s a few ways to enjoy your feelings of gratitude:

1. Journal

Feeling thankful is great to explore through journaling. Try jotting down whatever you’re thankful for in life, no matter how big or small! Come back to this journal entry whenever you could use a reminder.

2. Visualize your happy place

It could be a cozy bookstore on the snowy mountainside with a crackling fireplace. Or maybe it’s the beaches you sun-bathed on during your last family vacay. Whatever your happy place in your mind is, go there. Picturing something that makes you feel warm and at peace can help lift your mood and put into perspective what really matters to you.

3. Practice gratitude

Maybe it looks like grabbing your co-worker their favourite drink from Starbucks on your way into work to show them how much they’re appreciated. Or you could write a nice thank-you note to your fitness instructor for pushing you to meet your goals every week. Whatever it is, spreading the positivity will always feel good for everyone! 

4. Connect with a friend

Call or text your friend to catch up. Go for a coffee date, or even have a Zoom hangout if they live far away. Tell them how thankful you are for their friendship – passing along your feelings of gratitude will make them feel appreciated!

5. Practice meditation

Meditation is a method that’s been used to relieve stress and improve mental clarity since, like… forever. This practice allows us to slowww down and appreciate the good in our lives. If you’re not sure how to meditate, start out with a guided practice – we all gotta start somewhere!

That’s it, that’s all for now. Remember: taking time to show gratitude is sooo important for our mental wellbeing. So embrace this feeling and appreciate all of the things that bring happiness to your life! P.S. We’re thankful for you, friend.

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