Why You Should Practice Gratitude Every Day for Your Overall Health

Practicing Gratitude Beyond Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving gives us a reason to pause and reflect on things that we are grateful for. It is a chance to recenter our focus on things that matter in life, and it reminds us to not take them for granted. For a brief moment, our social media may be filled gratitude posts about food, friends, and family. However, many studies have shown that practicing gratitude more than once a year can have a larger effect on our lives. The regular practice of gratitude can improve our mental and physical health, and our relationships with others.

What does gratitude mean? Vocabulary.com explains that gratitude is different from indebtedness. “When you feel gratitude, you’re pleased by what someone did for you and also pleased by the results… Unlike indebtedness, you’re not anxious about having to pay it back. But it’s still great to tell the recipient of your gratitude how much they mean to you.” So gratitude is the feeling or personal quality of being thankful; it is readiness to show appreciation for and return kindness.

3 Ways Gratitude Improves Your Overall Well-being

Better Physical Health
  • Practicing gratitude daily can lead to overall optimism about life and has shown to boost your immune system.
  • Studies have shown that gratitude leads to more positive thoughts at bedtime, which assists in longer and better sleep.
  • Gratitude can even lead to better heart health, including lower blood pressure, better heart rhythm, and reduced inflammation.
  • Counting your blessings can lead to improving your overall physical health. Studies have shown those practicing thankfulness leads to engaging in more protective health behaviors like regular exercise, a healthy diet, regular physical examinations.
Better Mental Health
  • Gratitude reduces toxic emotions from envy and resentment to frustration and regret.  Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces anxiety and depression.
  • Research suggests feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive impact on your emotional resilience helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress. Emotional resilience can also improve your ability to bounce back from seriously stressful events, like trauma, homelessness, grief or job loss.
  • Gratitude can even improve your self-esteem. Studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. Rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better job, a major factor in reduced self-esteem, grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.
Better Relationships
  • Gratitude can lead to stronger friendships. In one study, expressions of gratitude between friends led to greater “communal strength” (how responsible you feel for the other person’s well-being). For example, when there is really high communal strength in a relationship one person is willing to personally sacrifice a lot in order to benefit his or her partner.
  • Since gratitude can lead to stronger relationships and more healthy attachments, many have reported that they feel less lonely or isolated and more connected to others.
  • Gratitude can improve your romantic relationship. Research has shown that an appreciated partner is more responsive to their partner’s needs, and is more committed to maintaining the relationship.

How to Cultivate Gratitude

Gratitude may not come easily. However, your ability to express gratitude may grow over time with practice and cultivation. You may be surprised how much your life can change. Below are a few ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis (originally found here):

  • Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person’s impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.
  • Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the gifts you’ve received each day.
  • Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.
  • Pray. People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.
  • Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as “peace”), it is also possible to focus on what you’re grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.).

 

Other helpful articles about gratitude:

A collection of over 26 studies on the positive effects on the brain.

The benefits of gratitude

http://www.happify.com/hd/cultivate-an-attitude-of-gratitude/

http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/pdfs/GratitudePDFs/6Emmons-BlessingsBurdens.pdf

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/21/gratitude-healthy-benefits_n_2147182.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/between-you-and-me/201303/is-gratitude-the-antidote-relationship-failure

http://gratefulness.org/resource/eight-ways/

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/expandinggratitude