'An attitude of gratitude is good for our overall health': Experts encourage people to show thanks this holiday season

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it can be easy to forget to pause and take a moment to show gratitude for the things that matter most. As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, experts are encouraging people to do just that.

"Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to spark a gratitude practice," explained Dr. Shilagh Mirgain, a distinguished psychologist with UW Health. "Research shows that cultivating an attitude of gratitude is good for our overall health."

Whether it's thanking your aunt for preparing Thanksgiving dinner or thanking a friend who helped you through a tough time, Dr. Mirgain says it's important to acknowledge the people and things in our lives we are grateful for.

"Those people who are more grateful, who have gratitude practice, find that they are happier," Dr. Mirgain said. "It can lead to improvements in sleep and energy. It's also very good for our heart in that it improves blood pressure and glycemic control. Gratitude also fosters social connectiveness. It helps us feel less isolated or alone."

Julia R. M. rings bells during the holiday season, collecting donations for the Salvation Army. It's one way she gives back to the community she's so thankful for.

"Thank you God to be in this wonderful country, having the opportunities for myself and my family. My kids and my community," said Julia, who says she's excited for the Thanksgiving holiday. "I'm going to cook the turkey, but I prefer to celebrate with my community most. Many people are waiting for our help."

Once the Thanksgiving holiday has come and gone, Dr. Mirgain says it's important to continue to show gratitude for the people and things important to them, sharing some tips on how to do so.

"Creating a gratitude journal or maybe using a gratitude app where at the end of the day, reflecting by writing down five things that you're grateful for," Dr. Mirgain said. "Research shows that within a month, people become a little bit happier and within six months, people report being nine percent happier just taking a minute to write down the five things they're grateful for."

A simple task, one that can help improve your health and attitude, as well as the lives of those around you.

"Gratitude is quite simple and it's free and always available to us," Dr. Mirgain said. "Many people are struggling and suffering with a whole magnitude of stresses this time of year, but gratitude allows us to have a choice in how we're responding."

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