Finding it difficult to get into the thanksgiving season spirit? Many studies have shown that feeling grateful can help people build happier and more meaningful lives.

Health experts, psychologists and different schools of philosophy and religion said that gratitude is essential to live longer and happier lives, and several studies on the scientific side of thankfulness also prove it.

Researchers of a study published in Personal Relationships journal found that gratitude was linked to improved marriage outcomes. After surveying more than 460 couples by phone, the results showed that the power of thank you can go a long way in helping significant others feel appreciated, that their partners are committed to the relationship and that the partnership will last.

Gratitude also helped protect a couple's relationship from divorce and separation, and that marital commitment is also protected from the negative consequences due to communication breakdown during conflicts.

"Even if a couple is experiencing distress and difficulty in other areas, gratitude in the relationship can help promote positive marital outcomes," said Allen Barton, a postdoctoral research associate at UGA's Center for Family Research and the study's lead author.

Another recent research from the American Psychological Association published last April said that asymptomatic heart failure patients who kept a gratitude journal had markedly decreased levels of inflammation and improved cardiac health.

More than 180 men and women participated in the study and had to keep a gratitude journal for at least eight weeks. Researchers found that those who committed to these journals had reduced circulation on inflammatory biomarkers of the disease as well as improved heart contractility and function.

"It seems that a more grateful heart is indeed a more healthy heart, and that gratitude journaling is an easy way to support cardiac health," said Paul J. Mills, professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California.

With several benefits highlighting the importance of gratitude in people's lives, how does one practice gratitude even at times when it feels like there is nothing to be thankful for at all?

One way to do this, some experts say, is in shifting the mindset to finding things to be grateful for, no matter how small it is.

"It is relatively easy to be thankful for the most important and obvious parts of life - a happy marriage, healthy kids or living in America," wrote Arthur Brooks, president of American Enterprise Institute and a writer for the New York Times. "But truly happy people find ways to give thanks for the little, insignificant trifles."

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