What is gratitude? Gratitude is more than just saying thank you; it’s about valuing everything you have. The practice of gratitude is easy to do but often overlooked. Gratitude is an attitude that not only helps you mentally but physically, as well. Here are five reasons why gratitude improves your health.
Gratitude Improves Your Immune System
Stress hormones, including cortisol, are 23% lower in those who practice gratitude. What does that mean for your immune system? When our stress levels are high, it promotes an inflammatory response in the body, causing our immune system to weaken. In addition, according to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, people who practice gratitude report fewer health complaints and symptoms of physical illness.
Gratitude Helps Improves Sleep
Regular practice of gratitude helps you sleep longer with better quality. In one study, gratitude increased sleep quality by 10% for those with chronic pain and 76% for insomnia. Gratitude was measured through a nightly gratitude journal practice over time. Writing in a journal for 15 minutes before bed may help you let go of problems and sleep better.
Gratitude Improves Physical Health
Grateful people tend to feel fewer aches and pains than those who are not. They will engage in exercise, eat better, and are more likely to take care of their health by going to the doctor. Other physical health benefits reported by UC Davis Health Medical Center:
- Practicing gratitude led to a 7-percent reduction in biomarkers of inflammation in patients with congestive heart failure.
- Dietary fat intake is reduced by as much as 25 percent when people keep a gratitude journal.
- Grateful people have 16 percent lower diastolic blood pressure and 10 percent lower systolic blood pressure than those less grateful.
- Grateful patients with Stage B asymptomatic heart failure were 16 percent less depressed, 20 percent less fatigued, and 18 percent more likely to believe they could control their illness symptoms than those less grateful.
- Grateful people (including people grateful to God) have between 9-13 percent lower levels of Hemoglobin A1c, a key marker of glucose control that plays a significant role in the diagnosis of diabetes.
Gratitude Improves Interpersonal Relationships
Partners demonstrating gratitude increase relationship satisfaction and happiness. Socially, those who practice gratitude are generally more pleasant toward others. Specifically, a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky saw participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. In addition, they experienced more sensitivity and empathy.
If you’re still not convinced, another study found positive effects on gratitude and social desirability. Gratitude helps strengthen social bonds and friendship maintenance. Overall, grateful people make friends through social support and empathy.
Gratitude Improves Mental Health
Gratitude helps to overcome trauma by reducing toxic thoughts. In addition, regular gratitude practice leads to improved self-esteem. According to the UC Davis Health Medical Center, some other mental health benefits of gratitude:
- Two gratitude activities (counting blessings and gratitude letter writing) reduced the risk of depression in at-risk patients by 41 percent over six months.
- Writing a letter of gratitude reduced feelings of hopelessness in 88 percent of suicidal inpatients and increased optimism levels in 94 percent of them.
- Gratitude is related to 19 percent lower depression levels.
Tips on Practicing Gratitude:
First, the act of gratitude focuses on appreciating the small things you have in life and what is going well. Having an attitude of gratitude helps you improve your overall opinion of yourself while boosting your self-esteem. Think of how privileged you are to access the internet to read this blog! Here are some examples of gratitude practices to implement:
- Journaling– Take a few minutes to write down everything positive happening in your life every day.
- Yoga/Meditation– These two practices center around the mind-body connection and help you with gratitude. Use the quiet moments to reflect and set intentions.
- Live in the moment- Take a few minutes to focus on the positives of your life and how that makes you feel. Reflect on happy moments through pictures or words from a loved one and reflect.
- Say thank you to others- Showing gratitude by thanking them for a simple act or experience helps you spread positivity.
- Volunteering- Helping those in need helps you recognize how good you have it.
- Daily Affirmations and Prompts- Helps remind and inspire you to be grateful.
Overall, wellness begins with gratitude. There are so many powerful, scientifically proven ways that the mind-body connection is essential. I hope you find a way to foster it by finding ways to practice gratitude daily.