November 26th, 2008
12:08 PM ET

The importance of being thankful

By Val Willingham
CNN Medical Producer

Every day I wake up and thank God for another day. It's not a big ceremony. It's just something I do to calm my soul. I am a blessed person and I feel it's important to acknowledge that fact.

When I was a little girl, my parents made sure I always said "Thank you” for the things I was given. I never took anything for granted. A kind word, a small token, I was always appreciative. Even as an adult I keep "Thank you" notes in my desk, ready to send to those who have looked out for me, or been there when I needed them most.

Doctors say giving thanks, taking the time to notice positive things in your life is not only good for your psyche but it's good for your body. University of California at Davis researchers found that practicing gratitude can lower your blood pressure and make you feel less hostile. Grateful people are less angry, less negative and usually look for the cup half full. Studies by Cornell University researchers have shown that those who are thankful appear to have lower risks of developing phobias, alcoholism, even depression. They even have stronger immune systems.

And while Thanksgiving is a perfect time to stop and give thanks for things you have, psychologists say it shouldn't be the only time of year you do it. Being thankful, I mean REALLY THANKFUL, should happen every day. I know in these tough times of foreclosures, unemployment and a bear market, many people think they don't have much to be thankful for. But, as my grandmother used to say, "if you've got your health and are surrounded by the people you love, then you are fortunate." I am a very fortunate person.

While Thanksgiving is a U.S. holiday, ALL of us can make a resolution to wake up and express appreciation for the things we feel grateful for. Take a moment each day to thank a co-worker, your spouse, your child, a friend, the guy who holds the door open for you, or the waitress who brings you coffee with a smile, and see if you don't feel a little better after doing it.

What are you thankful for? How do you express it? What does Thanksgiving mean to you? Please let us know.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

soundoff (186 Responses)
  1. TJ

    I, too, give a brief and silent prayer at the beginning of each day
    for God waking me up to another day. I also ask for a peace
    in the day and give thanks for the little things in life and to
    Him for carrying me when I could not carry myself.

    November 26, 2008 at 13:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Zola

    Hello Val,
    Thanks for writing this excellent reminder, I know that times are tough for many people, but it is also an opportunity to reevaluate what is really important for us and be thankfull for it.
    And as we give thanks to God and those in our lives for what we have,let us also give a helping hand whenever we can.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

    November 26, 2008 at 13:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Rekha

    As rightly pointed in the article,keeping good health and a cheerful attitude shall overcome obstacles and make our life celebrate every day as thanksgiving day

    November 26, 2008 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Steve

    I'm thankful that I have been in remission from head/neck cancer for over 5 years now. You never seem to really appreciate good health, until it's in jeopardy.

    November 26, 2008 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Antonio

    Is true, people forget that the basic thing in life are more importante, no matter how rich u are u can purchase ur well being and health. Yeah economy is pretty harsh now and many are suffering but at least we can walk and half a normal life. We can still stand up and fight this economy but we will never be able to guaranteed health.

    November 26, 2008 at 14:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Mickie T. West

    I do express my thanks every day to God for all of my blessings, such as being in good health at 64, my wonderful son, my sister and her many children and grandchildren who are all so loving, and for getting me through some pretty rough times as a single mom since my son was 5. I would not trade my life with anybody else and am truly thankful and happy. I do believe we have to give to others who are less fortunate to really be happy in life.

    November 26, 2008 at 14:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Roberto

    Just what I needed to read. Just what I need to practice more.
    Thank you. Thank you.

    November 26, 2008 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Pauline Prince

    I truly am blessad and favored of the Lord and I always give Him the highest Praise and thank Him for each day. Val I honestly believe your write up on giving thanks. I am that person. Have a bless and highly favored Thanksgiving and every waking moment.

    November 26, 2008 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Anne

    I am thankful to God for surviving breast cancer since 1999. God was so good to me through it all. I thank my doctor Alan Stolier for being such a dedicated doctor. I also thank Dr, Milton Seiler and Mohomad Elmongy. I thank my husband for sticking with me through it all and my two wonderful boys. Also my friend Awanda and her mother Mrs. Edna.

    November 26, 2008 at 14:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Maria

    I am thankful for my children.

    November 26, 2008 at 14:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Kate

    I like you wake up and thank God for the blessings he's seen fit to bestow upon me. Then I go through my day and there are constant reminders that I am not able to mend the discord with my family. I am an adult and yet it bothers me very much, we don't have a relationship and God know its not for a lack of trying, forgiving or letting things go. I know that I am blessed in so many ways, but by the end of the day I have to ask God to help me to hold on because how can you live without family or someone to turn to? I do know that I have God, through it all I'll continue to thank God and pray for him to make me stronger. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

    p.s. Please don't delete because its not all happy, sometimes reality isn't all happy.

    November 26, 2008 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Bertha Aguirre

    I am thankful for my mother and uncle, who taught me the value of life, even when we are so poor, nothing takes the place of all the good teaching/lectures from a parent, which you carry with you through life and on to your own children. They also taught me to have God and spritiualty in my life and to pray everyday and to live right, then good things comes to you. Always share food with any guest or families that comes and visit. Thanksgiving Day in America is a special time to remember all the gifts in life and think about how we can further live in harmony with each other to build a better future. Happy Thanksgiving.

    November 26, 2008 at 15:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. RK

    Very well said. We habitually thank people for small courtesies, but are usually not thankful for the gift of life itself. The last 3 letters in thankful (FUL) are vital, because they denote a feelling of being full or complete. Fullness means no deprivation, no anger , no jealousy and no regrets- hence a total liberation.
    Not surprisingly, thankfulness is good for body, mind and soul.

    November 26, 2008 at 15:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. NVGarcia

    I may not have a job after the holidays, but I am thankful that at least I can go home to my family and will have a roof over my head and unemployment to pay my bills. Oh, and I'm thankful for my good health. Without that, I have nothing.

    November 26, 2008 at 15:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Bertha Aguirre

    Thanksgiving in America is celebrated as a day to give thanks and remember how the Native American Indians helped the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims' Thanksgiving celebration is a part of everyday lore in America. Feasts of gratitude and giving thanks have been a part of Indian culture for thousands of years. God bless our beautiful America.

    November 26, 2008 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Raymond

    Thank you for this post.

    November 26, 2008 at 15:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. bel

    Yes we have so many things to be thankful in life. Just waking up
    alive everyday is already something to be grateful for. Let us live each day with hearts overflowing with gratefulness for all blessings that come our way.

    November 26, 2008 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Carrie

    I am so thankful for my health and the health of my family! We are so very blessed. I dont think ive ever taken it for granted, and know that can change at a moment's notice! All the "things" we have, and we lack for nothing, will not mean anything at all if we have health issues. And, we can ALWAYS find someone worse off than we are!

    November 26, 2008 at 15:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Sally Norby

    I give thanks each morning for a healthy body and mind. I also use that time to bless each member of my family (including my wonderful animals), my co-workers and friends.

    My mother also taught me to respond with a thank you. Taking time to value those with whom we come into contact, helps us to also see the incredible blessings we have in our lives.

    I too am blessed, and I am most grateful.

    November 26, 2008 at 15:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Laurie Burke

    Ironic to find a blog that wants us to express thanks for our health. I just gone done with a major crying session and a long chat with God that could basically be summed up with one word: "Why?"

    I just found out that I'm being referred to an orthopedic surgeon because of problems with my left knee. I have severe arthritis in my neck and am currently getting steroid shots for my lower back. I have also had balance problems in the past year due to a whiplash injury which would not have occurred if I had had a strong neck to begin with. Let's not forget the plantar fasciitis I developed in 2006. I won't bore you with all the details regarding the doctor visits, traction, physical therapy, MRI's and x-rays that I've had in the past few years.

    I also lost my job in September and I am the sole breadwinner and yes, I have a mortgage. In order to collect unemployment I have to search for jobs in between all the steroid shots, MRI's, PT appts. etc...
    Along with everyone else, I have watched my 401(k) lose 50% of its value in the past year.

    I DO understand that other people suffer a great deal also. I hear the stories and I pray for every suffering person that I hear about. Today I heard about children who have brain tumors. I was quite frank with God and told him to take the tumor from one of those children and put it in my body. It seems so unfair to me that these children who have so much promise should not live when I would gladly take on their tumor and have my life end instead of theirs. I am so weary that I would be relieved to get cancer at this point. Sad.

    All the things that are wrong with me are not life threatening, but I do suffer pain every day; I have for years. I know I will continue to suffer with pain for the rest of my life. It is also difficult to try and be a productive citizen in this world; bosses don't like it when you ask for a lot of time off to handle health issues. That is if I can find another job again....

    For all the suffering people out there, don't think that no one cares. I do. I hear your stories; I understand. If I could come riding in on my white horse and fix all your problems, I would certainly do that for you.

    November 26, 2008 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Janet

    That's exactly how I was raised too. Every morning I give thanks for my health and all my blessings and try not to sweat the small stuff.

    November 26, 2008 at 15:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Lauraleigh Devey

    I could not agree more with your message of grattitude and just how to express it all through the year. Since having been diagnosed with an incurable Kidney disease that is leading up to a mandatory transplant, I have done as you state, count my blessing each and every day.

    It is not only my health status that humbled me, but partnering with my ultimate soul mate has also given me a lot of grattitude, coupled with a whole new attitude on life.

    How thankful I am for all that I have and have not.

    Happy Thanksgiving!


    November 26, 2008 at 15:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Alice Parham

    I totally agree. We too often forget the things that are truly blessings by looking at TV and people around us and comparing ourselves.

    I have to say that I am truly blessed. All my children are alive and healthy and doing the right things. They are good children; who believe in God and live humble lives. There are not in the streets on drugs or worse. I have the activity and use of all my limbs; I am in my right mind and have use of my five senses.

    I had the best mother in the world; second to none. She has passed but the residue of her life is still with me.

    I have a brother and sister who are still alive. Although they live in another state, I am thankful that I talk to them every day.

    I am thankful that I still have a job with good coworkers. I have a boss who does not micro manage me. I have a warm roof over my head.

    I don't have money for Christmas, but guess what... my children and I are going to play hangman (no money needed) and laugh our socks off together; then we will all lay on the floor and watch movies. I am going to kiss and hug by children and thank God for his goodness to me and my family.

    And you know what, I don't have a lot of money or a car or fancy things, but I have come to realize that material things do not dictate who I am or who I will become. Only the love you show to others and the love you receive.

    Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, everyday


    November 26, 2008 at 16:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Marianne

    My 10 year old daughter wrote this poem for me last month:
    "You count your blessings 1 by 1, you say there name. Each one God created, so be thankful. So count your blessings everyday."
    Hopefully we can all live by this.

    November 26, 2008 at 16:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Khalique Ahmed

    People who are apprecaitive and thankful of other humans have generally broader view of the range of human conditions.. While enjoying our thanksgiving dinner we should not forget about those who may not be fortunate enough to have enough resources to feed themselves or their families. Perhaps we should all have a thanksging resolution of doing something within our reach and capacity to help the millions of unfortunate haumans who are trapped in the shackles of poverty and injustice. In my view the real progess of humanity should be gauged with the contributions of humanity to improve the human condition regardess of geographical locations, race, religion and ethincity. On this thanksgiving we should open our minds for the serious thinking to establish the world peace, mutual goodwill, propsperity and human equlity. Doing good to others is the ultimate tablet of happiness and satifsication.

    November 26, 2008 at 16:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Richard

    Thanksgiving is not about giving thanks. We're not celebrating givingthanks holiday. It's thanks then give. Jesus said "it's more blessed to give then to receive".
    Saying a simple "thanks" cost us nothing. It's the act of giving is what counts. When you feed the hungry, give drink to sometone thirsty and give a coat to someone that didn't have one, it's like doing it for Him, Jesus said.
    That's the true meaning of "Thanksgiving".

    November 26, 2008 at 16:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Edward

    So, is it then, by logic, that people who do not have good health are not fortunate and have nothing?

    Being thankful requires implicit acknowledgement that one has some thing that another does not. It's not enough to be thankful for what one has, whether it's health, financial stability, basic necessities, etc. We must help others who have not. If the "fortunate ones" express their gratitude, but then use that expression as a means to justify not doing more for the less fortunate, the sum is zero. Humility and gratitude are virtuous, but they don't put food on a starving person's plate or provide comfort to the sick. Society needs more action, fewer words. Do not stop at thankfulness, perform an act of caring for another.

    November 26, 2008 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Karen Cushman

    I am thankful for surviving kidney cancer almost 10 years now cancer free. I have a beautiful family and a wonderful husband for which I am very blessed. I have a roof over my head and food to share with others.
    Something to be grateful for.

    November 26, 2008 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Tesfaye Jimma

    For me it is a bridge between God and me. I pracitice it every single morning and night. When I say thanks God, it gives me enormous pleasure. Again thanks God.

    November 26, 2008 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Mary

    Oh, I'm thank-ful for everything !

    For family, friends, the good food we have to eat, a warm home, the beauty around us.

    November 26, 2008 at 16:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Keith

    It's an "attitude of gratitude" that has saved as well as improved my life!

    November 26, 2008 at 16:51 | Report abuse | Reply


    November 26, 2008 at 17:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. summer

    thank you for an uplifting article- i too wake up every morning and thank God for allowing me to put both of my feet on the ground for one more day- i also thank Him for the health and happiness of my 3 children as well as my brother and my sister- i say a special prayer for my parents and my youngest sister hoping that their souls are resting peacefully in heaven and my last prayer is to keep the breast cancer that i was diagnosed with in 04 to stay away from my body- i truly agree with you that we should be thankful even in the most difficult of times and to try to share with others how blessed we are hoping they too may learn to open their hearts to the many joys our lives can offer us if we are willing to accept them- happy holidays and thank you for sharing your most innermost thoughts with the rest of the world-

    November 26, 2008 at 17:23 | Report abuse | Reply


    November 26, 2008 at 17:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. vanessa simpson

    It is good to know with the blessings there are trials, but with all that is said, isn't it a blessing to able to respond to anything whether positive or negative, by whatever means we are still here to face it all good or bad.

    November 26, 2008 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. sandi

    Val......More people need to be like you. It's good to know some still have values. I was raised by my grandparents and was taught to help others and not to expect or take anything in return except a thank-you. I am so grateful they raised me. I have had people come to me and thank me for being nice and helping and it is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Sometimes all it needs to be is a smile to someone having a bad day. You never know what a smile can do for someone lonely. God Bless and Peace to you.

    November 26, 2008 at 17:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Charlie

    It's true – whether you believe in God or not, a significant body of research shows that people who are more emotionally positive are also physically healthier. In the face of serious illness and other grave conditions, the effects of a positive attitude and support from others has been shown to reduce health risks by up to 70 percent!

    Giving thanks regularly is a great way to start this habit. Thanks, Dr. Gupta, for reminding us about this in the midst of trying times when we need it most! For more info on the research, pick up Daniel Goleman's famous book entitled "Emotional Intelligence". I'm so glad I read it – it's starting to change my life, and it could change yours too!

    November 26, 2008 at 17:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. dare

    Now I am going to thank my mother. God bless you for this article

    November 26, 2008 at 17:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. neuroperson

    This article is pointless. Research shows that people who are happy are that way because they are born that way, not because they are raised to be thankful. People who are angry and sad and sick are that way because they are born that way, and being thankful wont change them to any significant degree.

    If you are a doctor like me and see the unbelievable suffering and cruelness of life like children with cancer, you can easily start to think that God is either cruel, incompetent, or simply doesnt care.

    So if you are healthy and happy, you just drew the long stick, enjoy it. But don't preach like you are superior to those who werent so lucky.

    November 26, 2008 at 17:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Danny Lamila

    There are only 3 H's in life for you to become a winner- Happy,Healthy and Helping Others.

    November 26, 2008 at 18:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Alex Smith

    Great article! It is extremely important to never take things for granted.

    To make a long story short, on October 16th, I was almost killed in a terrible car accident–I've never been more thankful for my life.

    November 26, 2008 at 18:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. psibley

    Most thankful that cancer found me and not others that I love. I can survive and have with enough energy to help others. And thankful that despite the challenges from cancer, that I can still move forward stronger than most proving that anything is possible as long as your never quit. Thankful? I am truly blessed.

    November 26, 2008 at 18:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Patricia

    My Dad always said "You should thank God every day you wake up!". I thought it was a result of his service in WW II or some overly religious ideal. But you know what? Father knows best! When I start my day with a Thanks, the whole day IS better!

    And today, I sent my friends the lyrics to the Irving Berlin song that Rosemary Clooney hit out of the park in White Christmas. Maybe the
    second stanza is most timely!

    When my bankroll is getting small
    I think of when I had none at all
    And I fall asleep
    Counting my blessings

    November 26, 2008 at 18:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Tammy

    I am truly thankful for all of our sailors and soldiers. My son is finally home from Iraq this Thanksgiving, and each and every day i thank God that he made it home safe. WHen i hear the stories of what our soldiers endure over there and the sacrifices they make for each and every one of us, we should all remember them when giving "Thanks"

    November 26, 2008 at 18:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Ella

    This year I am so thankful for my family and appreciate your allowing us to voice our thanks. I lost a son in '07, have three nieces who have/are battling breast cancer, a cousin (who is more like a sister) who is going through chemotherapy - and I have a new church family where I feel loved and appreciated. Then I thank God for health, having been recently hospitalized, May you and all who read this realize that the love of family is key to our well being, SO ENJOY THEM.

    November 26, 2008 at 19:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Eva

    I try to write in a journal the things that I am thankful for – wonderful husband, good marriage, good health, comfortable financial situation, good family relationships, good friends. I'm almost embarrassed at all the riches in my life! I should be turning backflips every day! I do notice that I get more annoyed or blue when I don't do this practice regularly. Hopefully this column will help motivate me to make this a more routine behavior. Brush my teeth; write my blessings....

    November 26, 2008 at 19:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. gojennings

    On my blog at http://gojennings.tumblr.com, I have been listing my thankfulness daily this November. Some are silly, but good health, particularly that of my children, was one of the most important! My advice is to take the time to list your blessings... it's fun and reminds you to stay positive! Happy Thanksgiving!

    November 26, 2008 at 20:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. A

    It may sound odd, but I'm thankful for my financial responsibilities. As a post-grad in the real world, I'm paying my own bills and rent for the first time and instead of dreading these expenses, I try to appreciate them. Because rent means I have a place of my own; electric means I can afford to use my kitchen appliances, my washer/dryer, lights; water because it means I can afford to shower and wash my clothes and dishes. Looking at those things in that light helps alleviate the stress of bill paying.

    November 28, 2008 at 09:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Samanta

    Thank you for a kindly reminder of being grateful!
    It was a cold shower for me... I burst into hot tears.
    After reading this article, I want to thanks only three people in my life:
    God, my Mother, and my Husband.
    My Mother is a single mother of three kids: my twin siblings and me. She was a survival of horrible surgeries of two ectopian pregnancies, I couldn't believe to my eyes when she survived the second surgery. I strongly believed that God save her Life, and that's why I'm grateful for Him.
    My mother is the strongest person I have ever seen in my life. Despite clinging to life, she believed that one day the branch of tree full of fruits of her labor will bend over our family. She had a modest glow of hope flickering to life within her, like a candle in the night.... She accomplished all her goals and raised beautiful children; I want to sincerely thank her for every moment of my life!
    I’m also, truly grateful to my husband, who spent with me the most difficult times . He is a real role model for me. He is the person who always pushes me forward, that’s why I have so many achievements. He made my heart melt with love and admiration and fear. Therefore, I want to express my gratitude for the kindest person, whom I deeply in love.
    Thank you so much,

    November 28, 2008 at 18:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. S Callahan

    I too wake up everyday giving thanks....and with the Bible as my compass I give thanks at night, and make my needs known in the morning as the Lord instructs.
    Poverty is a state of mind. Some of the happiest people on this earth are the poorest because they have an attitude of gratitude. 'Things' aren't what give value to living....it's the joys along the way, the relationships we forge, and so forth.
    12 yrs ago my life was turned upside down with the loss of several family members...and until you loose that..you really live a pretty selfish life of taking things for granted...since then I have been mindful of all the good that God places in our life and how even the slightest thing is really a big blessing.

    November 29, 2008 at 09:41 | Report abuse | Reply
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