Updated: Nov 25, 2021
“A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.” 
Modern science confirms the breadth of wisdom communicated through this proverb from nearly 3,000 years ago. Although at times we may think our life circumstances fail to warrant a merry heart, the opportunity is always available to cultivate thankfulness.
Interestingly, studies on gratitude to improve health do not focus on the participants’ life circumstances, but rather on the effectiveness of giving thanks. A study conducted by the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and the University of Stirling, Scotland on heart patients discovered that an 8-week gratitude journal resulted in reduced risk of heart disease. They concluded that, “Higher levels of gratitude were found to be associated with better mood, better sleep, less fatigue and less inflammation, a factor that worsens with the progression of heart failure.” 
To develop a thankful heart takes intentionality. The Thanksgiving holiday is a great reminder, but once a year is not enough. Instead, gratitude should be part of our lifestyle. Emmons, a professor at the University of California, explains how to journal our expressions of gratitude to maximize the benefits we receive. Of course, we can also practice these on friends and family.
“Don’t just go through the motions.” Take the time to elaborate on what and why you are grateful for specific things.
“Get personal.” Focus on the people in our lives more than the stuff.
“Try subtraction, not just addition.” Think of how your life would be without certain things you often take for granted.
“Savor surprises.” Recall the unexpected blessings you have received or experienced. 
Additionally, if there is reality in God’s word and that He created the world and desires relationship with us, there is a promise that comes with thanksgiving. Paul wrote in his letter to the followers of Christ in Philippi, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Through relationship with God, not religious routines, I have consistently and richly received this promise of peace by practicing the truths in this verse.
So, having a grateful heart not only protects us from heart disease, and other chronic illnesses, but improves the quality of our body, soul, and spirit. Thankfulness, truly, is a key nutrient for a thriving life. May your Thanksgiving and holiday season be an intentional time of gratitude that propels you into a lifestyle of counting your blessings!