A family sitting down to thanksgiving dinner, with the assistance of a Right at Home caregiver A family sitting down to thanksgiving dinner, with the assistance of a Right at Home caregiver

Gratitude and Giving Are Good For Our Health

Thanksgiving marks the commencement of the holiday season, a period not only dedicated to expressing our thanks but also to extending our generosity toward others. Generosity and gratitude have long been credited for helping improve relationships and communities. As we dive deeper into exploring these virtues, we discover a fascinating pattern: Older individuals often exhibit profound generosity, and the emotion of gratitude, when expressed or received, improves our health in surprising ways. Feeling and expressing gratitude are especially important in a caregiving relationship. When a caregiver’s thoughtful care is appreciated and noticed, they feel happier and more optimistic. There are many reasons why older adults are generous and reap the benefits that come with practicing gratitude.

A legacy of giving: Research indicates that older adults are often more generous than younger people. They volunteer more than any other age group, and they often fund charitable causes that will last long past the end of their lives. A 2012 study by the American Psychological Association found that as people age, they are more likely to value service to others and contribute to the welfare of others.

Empathy and experience: With age often comes a reservoir of experiences—joy, sorrow, triumphs, and defeats. These experiences might enhance empathetic understanding toward others’ needs and struggles, thereby boosting altruistic behavior. The 2010 book “Empathy and Moral Development: Implications for Caring and Justice” by Martin L. Hoffman explains how empathy, often deepened through personal experiences, can nurture generosity.

Building a lasting impact: Older adults might also be driven by a desire to leave a positive and lasting impact on their communities. Erik Erikson, a renowned psychologist, defined this as “generativity”—the concern for establishing and guiding the next generation. We see this when older adults establish scholarships for future generations or fight for the rights of children to grow up in a healthy, thriving planet.

Psychological well-being: Gratitude has been consistently linked to psychological well-being. A 2003 study by Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough found that people who regularly journaled about things they were grateful for were more likely to be optimistic about the coming weeks.

Physical health: Surprisingly, gratitude doesn’t just elevate our mental state, but also boosts our physical health. The practice of gratitude has been associated with an array of health benefits, including improved sleep and reduced stress.

Enhanced relationships: Expressing gratitude can strengthen our friendships. A 2014 study outlines that thank-you expressions can enhance the quality and duration of romantic relationships by fostering a cycle of generosity and appreciation between partners.

Boosting immunity: Practicing gratitude may fortify our immune system. A pilot study published in 2015 hinted at a potential link between a grateful disposition and healthier immune system markers in patients with Stage B asymptomatic heart failure.

Generosity and gratitude can intertwine to create a virtuous cycle that enhances relationships and individual well-being. The generosity of older adults, which often stems from a lifetime of experiences and an innate desire to foster a better future, can trigger waves of gratitude among recipients. So, this Thanksgiving, take time to be thankful and give back. It may create a wave of well-being in your community and beyond!

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(360) 392-3934