Academic studies show that what we learned in kindergarten is really true: it's not things, but attitude that truly makes us happy.

People who describe themselves as feeling grateful to others in general tend to have higher vitality and more optimism, suffer less stress, and experience fewer episodes of clinical depression than the population as a whole. Research scientist and psychologist, Robert Emmons from the University of California at Davis, has published studies indicating the following results:

1. Less Stress: Research suggests that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress, and to achieve a positive sense of self.

2. More Friends: A variety of scientists have found that grateful people are better listeners, more generous and more likely to help those in need. Reaching Your Goals The participants in Emmons' study who expressed gratitude made noticeable progress toward a variety of goals, ranging from better grades to better relationships. The students were also more alert, enthusiastic and determined than others.

3. Feeling Happy: Grateful people felt better about their lives as a whole and were more optimistic about the upcoming week," said Emmons in his study. They also had lower levels of depression.

4. Good Health: The Mayo Clinic's website states that people who focus on the positive not only live longer, but they have more resistance to colds as well as reduced risk of coronary artery disease. Emmons found that the grateful people in his study exercised more and got sick less than others. And, according to British doctor Richard Davidson, negative thinking can actually weaken a healthy immune system. Cultivating gratitude is one of the simpler routes to a greater sense of well being.

In anticipation of the upcoming holidays, try these suggestions for the next few weeks.

• Count your blessings before you go to sleep. It's better than counting invisible sheep! Or taking an Ambien…

• Smile. If you do it enough, psychologists say that you will start to feel happy. Receiving smiles also lifts the spirits of other people as well.

• Keep a gratitude journal. List three things you are thankful for everyday. It is fine if some things make the list more than once, especially if times are tough. Be encouraged. It takes 21 days for an attitude to become a habit. Think of the possibilities that a new positive attitude will do for you heading into the New Year! 

Lest I not heed my own advice, please allow me to say "thank you" for your support of Guardian Nurses this year! Happy Holidays to everyone!