Giving thanks really improves your health, experts say

From left, Fred Mackay, Steve Whitlock and Brian Stanton carve turkey Tuesday in preparation for First Baptist Church’s community Thanksgiving dinner. The annual event will serve about 450 people from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday.

From left, Fred Mackay, Steve Whitlock and Brian Stanton carve turkey Tuesday in preparation for First Baptist Church’s community Thanksgiving dinner. The annual event will serve about 450 people from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday. Photo by Gerry Tritz.

The blessings of Thanksgiving may be much more than a belly full of roasted turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie. Local experts say giving thanks and expressing gratitude can benefit the body, as well as the mind.

“I’ve seen research that indicates that if we can try to habitually focus on and appreciate those positive aspects of our lives, it’s related to a higher level of psychological health,” said Richard Lillard, a licensed clinical psychologist at Lifesong for Growth & Wellness. “I think it helps physically, as well. It’s hard to separate the two.”

Ken Sheldon, a psychology professor at the University of Missouri, has completed several studies on positive psychology and the expression of gratitude. He said expressing gratitude has positive benefits, but only if it’s done in a way that feels real.

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