Dogs love Thanksgiving. Seriously, who doesn’t like a holiday that revolves around eating a big, juicy bird? I could hunt down my own turkey, but it’s so much tastier when it’s basted in butter and roasted to perfection! Not to mention all those yummy side dishes.
Of course, it’s not just about the food. Dogs also understand gratitude. In fact, dogs tend to be better than people at appreciating the simple things in life, such as grass (smells great and is fun to roll on); fresh water (best drink ever, especially after a long walk); sunshine (napping in a warm sunbeam is heaven); and kindness (a gentle ear rub means a lot).
As pack animals, we also know the importance of being surrounded by loved ones. Personally, I am grateful for two awesome packs: my family at home and my co-workers at the office. In addition to feeding me, my packs provide plenty of playtime, belly rubs and love. I am one lucky dog!
But why do we need a holiday to remind us to be grateful? Did you know that being thankful is good for your health? It’s true. There are seven scientifically proven benefits of gratitude:
- Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains, and they report feeling healthier than other people. Research also shows that grateful people exercise more, are more likely to get regular medical check-ups and, as a result, live longer. Maybe that’s because they appreciate good health! Trust me, with a lifespan much shorter than most humans, dogs appreciate every day of feeling good, which is why we love to run and play!
- No surprise here – gratitude improves mental health. Research shows a strong link between gratitude and overall well-being. Specifically, it reduces envy, resentment, anger, frustration, regret, and depression, while boosting satisfaction and happiness. (I find chewing on a rawhide bone has a similar effect.)
- Gratitude can improve relationships. Saying “thank you” is not only polite, but showing appreciation can help you make and keep friends. It doesn’t take much – a simple thank- you note or acknowledging the contribution of a co-worker can generate positive feelings. Personally, I show my appreciation by excessive tail wagging, big sloppy licks and giant hugs!
- Grateful people are more likely to be empathetic and less aggressive, even when others behave in a less kind manner. In short, they tend to be nicer. (Warning: I growl at mean people!)
- Being thankful can improve your sleep. Research shows that spending just 15 minutes writing down things you’re grateful for before bed can help you sleep better and longer. (Hey, maybe that’s why I sleep like a log!)
- Gratitude improves self-esteem. A study in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that being thankful increases an athlete’s confidence, which improves performance. Even if you’re not an athlete, it still works. Instead of being resentful toward people who have things they don’t, grateful individuals are more satisfied with life and therefore, have more self-esteem. It’s true: I may not be as fast as a greyhound or as cuddly as a Yorkshire terrier, but I love my size. I can reach yummy things on the counter, people lavish me with attention, and once I’ve decided to sleep somewhere, it’s impossible to move me!
- Years of research has shown that gratitude reduces stress and can help us overcome trauma. In other words, it provides resilience for handling illness, grief and other distressing events that life throws our way. For example, I recently got a nasty scratch in my eye from a cranky cat (long story). Even though it was shocking and painful, I bounced back quickly because, as I mentioned earlier, I’m a lucky dog with people who love me!
So, this year, as you feast on turkey and spend time with loved ones, be sure to take a moment to be thankful for all the good things in life. But don’t stop there: incorporate that “attitude of gratitude” into your everyday life. It’s a simple way to be happier and healthier.
From my pack to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!