11/26/2013 01:18 pm ET Updated Jan 26, 2014

The Benefits of 'Thank You'

Send just one letter of appreciation to someone who has never been properly thanked and the feel-good benefits could last up to a month. Write in a gratitude journal every day for 10 weeks and you will likely feel more optimistic about your life and visit your physician less often. If you're a manager and you take the time to say thank you to your employees you'll find they'll be motivated to work harder. That's according to research at Harvard Medical School ("In Praise of Gratitude").

Gratitude causes us to pause and give value for the good. It prompts us to see the day's events in 20/20 clarity and reminds us to focus on the white space rather than the lone black dot on the canvas that is our life. It's a perspective that can bring healing, which is no secret to many. In fact, the specific physical health outcomes are being researched.

The tough part for some may actually be taking the time to practice gratitude.

We now have apps to help us get beyond any apathy. I recently started using The Gratitude Journal app. It's kept me focused and accountable for making a daily list of my thanks and it includes a brief inspirational quote on each page. After just a week, the most noticeable difference is I feel less impressed with the not-so-great stuff that happens in a typical day because I remember the long list of good that I've recorded.

In the new movie "About Time" starring Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson, the main character, Tim, has the special ability to repeat days in his life. In one scene, he tells his wife about his awful day. But on the replay, each formerly negative moment becomes an opportunity for him to bring out the good. He jams to a fellow commuter's loud music on the train, notices the beauty around him instead of rushing because he's late to work, and makes light of a tense situation at the office. This time when his wife asks him about his day he tells her it was great.

Despite events this past year that might point to hardship, disappointment, or even tragedy, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to come together in our families and church communities and think through the eyes of God. The ancient Psalmist got it right: "It is wonderful to be grateful and to sing your praises, Lord Most High! It is wonderful each morning to tell about your love and at night to announce how faithful you are." (Psalms 92, Contemporary English Bible).