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Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The benefits of being grateful

My grandpa always said that the most dangerous sin in America is ungratefulness. Sometimes we lose sight of the good things we have and experience because of the situations and stress that fill our lives. However, there are many benefits to having an attitude of gratitude. It is easy to remember to be thankful during the holiday season, but thankfulness should be an attribute of our daily lives.

According to Mayo Clinic and UCLA Health, gratitude can have several beneficial effects on mental and physical health. It can involve just thinking of someone you are grateful for or expressing that gratitude outwardly. It can also be a mindset of focusing on the positive side. It can reduce depression and anxiety and improve sleep and general happiness. Recognizing our blessings helps us to be more content. It can help us deal with adversity and maintain an optimistic outlook on life.

The truth is, there are many reasons we have to be thankful. We have many blessings we should remember. We often take for granted the prosperity and opportunities we have in the United States. For example, according to OurWorldInData from Oxford University, less than two percent of the U.S. population was under the global poverty line for upper-middle-income countries of $6.85 a day as of 2019. While we should do our part to help those in poverty, we can be thankful for the prosperity we often take for granted. 

Another reason to be thankful is the relative peace we have in the U.S. Though there is much turmoil and conflict throughout the world, we do not currently have any wars in the United States. That security is something to be thankful for. We should also remember the brave men and women of our Armed Forces who have fought and given their lives for our freedoms and security. They deserve our gratitude and appreciation for their service.

We should also be grateful for the freedoms we have in the United States. We often see negative things in the news and forget how blessed we are as Americans. Even though elections may not always go the way we would like and our candidates may lose, we still have the freedom to vote and conduct said elections. The religious freedom we have in the United States is nearly unprecedented throughout history and around the world. Free speech, freedom of the press and many other freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights and Constitution that we enjoy are rarely found in their entirety elsewhere.

People are often anxious about change. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Not all change is good. However, the level of innovation we have seen over the last 100 or even 20 years in technology, communication and transportation has brought us to a time with opportunities and blessings, as well as challenges, unlike any other.

Gratitude shown to others has benefits for not only ourselves, but also others. Thanking someone can improve their happiness and well-being. It also can motivate, making a simple “thank you” an effective tool for managers and others in positions of influence and control.

Not only does gratitude help us connect to other people, but according to Harvard Health, it can also help us connect to a higher power. For religious people, prayer is another way to express and improve gratitude. Recognizing the blessings we have from God can help us maintain a better outlook on life.

There are many benefits to being grateful, both for ourselves and others. Expressing our gratitude to others and simply taking time to list specific things we are thankful for are good ways to improve our gratitude. I hope that as we enter the Christmas season, we will be able to tune out the noise and stresses of life and remember our blessings, if only for a short time.

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DREW HILL, Opinion Columnist

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