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Practising Gratitude Can Improve Your Health

Updated: Jan 21

Make it one of your New Year's Resolutions to start practising being grateful

7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude

It's that time of year where many people begin thinking about New Year's Resolutions. Developing an "attitude of gratitude" is one of the simplest ways to improve your satisfaction with life. In fact, gratitude may be one of the most overlooked tools that we all have access to every day. Cultivating gratitude doesn't cost any money and it certainly doesn't take much time, but the benefits are enormous.


1. Improves physical health

Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences. Not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health. They exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups, which is likely to contribute to further longevity.


2. Improves psychological health

Gratitude reduces a multitude of 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 depression.


3. Promotes better sleep

Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer.


4. Gratitude improves self-esteem

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased athletes' self-esteem, an essential component to optimal performance. Other studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. Rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs - a major factor in reduced self-esteem - grateful people are able to appreciate other people's accomplishments.


5. Enhances empathy and reduces aggressive behaviour

Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kindly. They are less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experience more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.


6. Increases mental strength

For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it many also play a major role in overcoming trauma. A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War Veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of Post-Traumatic Stress. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11. Recognising all that you have to be thankful for - even during the worst times - fosters resilience.


7. Improves relationships

Not only does saying "thank you" constitute good manners, but showing appreciation can help you win new friends according to a 2014 study published in Emotion. This study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. So whether you thank a stranger for holding the door or send a thank-you note to that colleague who helped you with a project, acknowledging other people's contributions can lead to new opportunities.



WAYS TO START PRACTISING BEING GRATEFUL:

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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).



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