The health benefits of being thankful

While the big turkey dinner usually takes center stage, Thanksgiving is ultimately a holiday centered around gratitude.

Going around the table asking family members what they're thankful for may be a tradition in your household, and there are a number of reasons why doing so feels so good. Giving thanks, it turns out, has some major health benefits.

Research has linked gratitude with an increase in self-esteem, resiliency and overall life satisfaction. It can also help you build new friendships and strengthen the relationships you already have. "There are two processes at play here," Acacia Parks, Ph.D, chief scientist at Happify, a website and mobile app that provides games and activities geared towards improving mental wellbeing, told CBS News. "The person expressing the gratitude is thinking about their gratitude more, so they themselves feel better and their gratitude is stronger. And it's also good for the person receiving the gratitude because they feel appreciated and it makes them want to express the gratitude back."

Being happy with what you have has other benefits as well, says CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus. "When you smile, your whole body is changed. The chemicals, the endorphins, actually make your brain feel better and do better," he told "CBS This Morning."

He also explained the findings of a study in which one group of people were asked to write down what they were thankful for every week, while others wrote about their hassles and a third group wrote about neutral topics. "At the end of 10 weeks, the people who had gratitude, who wrote down the gratitude, actually had better self-esteem and they felt better about themselves and their lives. So it works. All of us can improve by just writing down what we care about."

People who are grateful are also more likely to demonstrate self-control, which can help them make better decisions regarding behaviors like healthy eating and not smoking.

Though Thanksgiving is a great time to express gratitude, Parks said that in order to reap its full benefits, it's important to make it a habit. "Yes, it is important to sit down and acknowledge our gratitude for one day, but doing something one day a year isn't going to actually make you a healthier person," she said. "It's a start, but the most important thing is to keep whatever happens at Thanksgiving going throughout the year."

In order to share with others the benefits of gratitude and offer advice to help you give thanks in everyday life, Happify compiled some of the best advice into the following infographic.

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Happify
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    Ashley Welch covers health and wellness for CBSNews.com