Practicing gratitude leads to better wellbeing and physical health. Research shows that gratitude can help us have less stress and anxiety, increased optimism, better sleep, and more satisfying relationships.
In this article, we look at decades of research linking gratitude to improved mental and physical health. We also offer ways you can cultivate gratitude in your daily life to reap these benefits.
Ready to think about thanks? Read on.
How Gratitude Helps Our Mental Health
Gratitude is emphasized on Thanksgiving Day and November, which is National Gratitude Month. Yet practicing gratitude all year can bring us the most profound and lasting benefits, according to research. Over the past 70 years, studies on people of varying ages, cultures, and health have shown that:
- Gratitude can help us sleep better, even if we have an ongoing illness like heart failure or chronic pain.
- We’re likely to be happier, more optimistic, more social, and less self-centered when we’re grateful.
- When we’re grieving, gratitude can help us heal.
- It can improve our self-esteem and satisfaction with life.
- Gratitude can also help us strengthen our relationships, both personal and professional.
Gratitude Also Improves Physical Health
In addition to contributing greatly to improved mental health, studies show that practicing gratitude is also linked to better physical health, especially in older adults. A grateful attitude can help us live longer, healthier lives.
Here are a few examples of the physical benefits of practices of gratefulness.
- Decreased markers of inflammation in people with asymptomatic heart failure.
- Improved recovery after a heart attack because it can improve functioning of the endothelium (the membrane that lines the heart and blood vessels).
- Lowered blood pressure in people with hypertension. This study also noted that people practice gratitude were more successful with smoking cessation and weight loss.
- An improved willingness to eat healthier, exercise, and seek help for medical concerns.
- Activation of the brain’s reward pathways, which boosts the production of neurotransmitter serotonin and dopamine, our pleasure chemical.
- Improved immune function, pain tolerance, glucose levels, and extended life span.
While not every study shows marked results, most do. This body of evidence is convincing enough for us to consider adopting exercises that lead to a more appreciative outlook. Study participants saw improvements in as little as two weeks, but most research suggests that longer we practice, the more rewards we get.
Practices to Cultivate Gratitude
It may only take a few minutes, or seconds, to get positive results. We can experience benefits from once-a-week exercises, but research shows we gain the most from continual daily practices.
Here are a few ideas to get started or grow our practices.
- Take 10 seconds throughout the day to focus on things you appreciate.
- List three things (or more) daily for which you’re grateful.
- Visualize and savor moments, people, and things that you appreciate.
- Take photos of things that you appreciate. Make a collage or screensaver of them.
- Meditate on the feelings of appreciation and thankfulness.
- Walk with the intention of appreciating the views.
- Tell your loved ones and friends their qualities and characteristics you appreciate or admire.
- Write notes, letters, or emails expressing gratitude for people’s qualities or actions.
- Visit people to read them your letters of your appreciation.
- Create group activities or chats to share your feelings and appreciation.
- Watch or read inspirational videos and stories.
- Take a moment to appreciate food or drink before consuming it.
- Make a gratitude bracelet with charms representing your health, supporters, and memories.
- Keep a daily gratitude journal to recall moments, experiences, people, and beauty in your life.
If you’d like journal prompts, fun family activities, and a video on detailed journaling, check out this article. For 15 fun, creative activities and picture books to help your children develop an attitude of gratitude, this article is for you.
Thanks for reading, we appreciate you!