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The health benefits of gratitude

By Andrea Stokes on October 29 2018 | Mental Wellness

Taking a moment to acknowledge what we have to be grateful for is a simple task and one that offers a surprising number of health benefits.  But it doesn’t come naturally to all of us, so it’s important to make a conscious decision to incorporate gratitude into our daily lives. 


Why is practicing gratitude important?

Read on for the health benefits of being grateful, as well as strategies to help make you a more grateful person!

  • Gratitude Improves Physical Health: In general, grateful people report fewer aches and pains and greater overall health than other people.  They are also more likely to have lifestyle habits that promote good health, such as exercising regularly and attending health check-ups more often.   
  • Gratitude Improves Mental Health: Being grateful can help to take the place of negative emotions that so easily find their way into our daily thoughts.  Anger, resentment, frustration, sadness and stress can all be minimized when we focus our perspective on the positive. 
  • Gratitude Enhances Empathy and Improves Social Connections: Grateful people tend to treat others with kindness, even when they aren’t receiving the same in return.  Instead of responding with aggression, they are better able to empathize and keep their cool, which can have a domino effect on everyone with whom they interact.  Grateful people also tend to attract a wider social circle, which can have significant impacts on psychological wellbeing. 
  • Gratitude Improves Sleep: Studies have shown that individuals who take a few moments to jot down things for which they are grateful before going to bed tend to sleep better and for longer.  Plus, it will never hurt to end your day on a positive note! 
  • Gratitude Improves Self-Esteem: Constantly comparing yourself to others can leave you feeling jealous, anxious, and less satisfied with your own life.  Being grateful for what you are able to do/afford/experience makes what others are doing less important to your overall sense of wellbeing. 


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How does practicing gratitude help?

While there is a clear connection between gratitude and healthier, happier people, the mechanisms behind how gratitude helps physical health are not totally clear.  It does seem that grateful people are inspired to live healthier lifestyles – not smoking, eating well, and exercising more often.  Improvements to sleep could certainly play a role, as could the stress-buffering effect of counting our blessings.  The social connections fostered through gratitude can also pave the way for long-lasting health improvements.  While the explanation might be up for debate, the benefits of gratitude are varied and well worth the moment or two each day it takes to think about all we have to be grateful for. 


What are some tips for becoming a more grateful person?  

Start a gratitude journal and make note of 3 things every day for which you are grateful.  Reap extra benefits by making your list as you go to bed.  Keep a paper copy, start a note in your smartphone, or just make a mental note if you’d like to keep it private.  Boost your workplace wellness by installing a Wall of Gratitude and encourage co-workers to leave sticky notes throughout the week outlining what makes them grateful.  It could be as simple as a sunny day or a hot cup of coffee! 


How does one turn negatives into positives?

Practicing gratitude can be a great way to make every day activities seem like a blessing.  For example, when you’re feeling like exercise is a chore, think about how grateful you are to be in good health and able to exercise, as not everyone has that luxury.  Or when you’re feeling stressed about making dinner, consider how lucky you are to be able to afford healthy foods and how grateful you are to have friends and family with whom to enjoy a meal.  When we appreciate the mundanities of life, we end up with endless reasons to be happy. 


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Sources: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/is_gratitude_good_for_your_health