The Great Health Benefits of Gratitude and Why You Should Be Part of Your Daily Routine

Gratitude is a simple practice that can have a huge impact on your health and well -being. Its foundations are believed to be principles of cooperation essential to improving human communication and social exchange, and the ability to experience gratitude in others is a fundamental part of human identity.1

The positive effects associated with gratitude include social, psychological and physical benefits,2 which adds to the more you make gratitude a regular part of your daily routine.

“The limits of the health benefits of gratitude really lie in your attention to feeling and practicing gratitude,” says neuroscientist Glenn Fox, Ph.D., a gratitude expert at the University of Southern California. “It’s very much like exercising, because the more you practice, the better you get. The more you practice, the easier it will be to feel grateful when you need it. ”3

How Gratitude Changes Your Brain

Gratitude has distinct neurobiological correlates, including brain regions related to interpersonal bonding and stress relief.4 When Fox and colleagues thanked 23 female members, through the stories of Holocaust survivors, “the ratings of gratitude related to brain activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and medial prefrontal cortex. , “which involves moral recognition, value judgment and theory of thought.5

Individual differences in gratitude propensity are also associated with an increase in the amount of gray matter in the brain,6 and it is possible that it will cause lasting changes in your psyche. Fox became very interested in gratitude after the death of his mother from ovarian cancer. During her illness, she would send her studies on the benefits of gratitude to cancer patients, and she kept a journal of gratitude in her final years.

In one example, 92 adults with advanced cancer participated in thoughtful gratitude journalism or routine journalism. After seven days, those who kept a gratitude journal had significant improvements in measures of anxiety, depression and spiritual well-being, with the researchers concluding that “thoughtful gratitude journal could positively affect the situation. in suffering, psychological distress and quality of life of patients with advanced cancer. ”7

“Grateful people are more likely to recover quickly from trauma and injury,” Fox told The Pulse. “They have better and closer personal relationships and may even be in better health overall.”8 When she tried to find gratitude after the loss of her mother, what she experienced was not a quick recovery or an immediate path to happiness, but a way to make her grief more manageable in time. .

As is well known, grateful writing such as thank you letters is a positive psychological intervention that brings about longer term changes in mental health. Among the 293 adults seeking psychotherapy services, those who participated in the thank you writing reported better mental health after four and 12 weeks than people who did not write or who wrote about their thoughts and feelings.9

Gratitude Improves Health, Well -Being

Gratitude can be hard to define, because it has elements of an emotion, a virtue and a character, all rolled into one. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and an expert on gratitude, describes it as a two -step process.

As explained in “The Science of Gratitude,” a white paper at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, the two steps include “1)‘ recognizing that one has achieved a positive outcome ‘and 2)’ recognize that there is an external source of this positive result. ‘”10

In this regard, the benefits of gratitude can be derived from the actions of other people or experienced in an internal way, such as when feeling gratitude about good fortune or nature. In this way, gratitude is a condition and an attitude.11

As a state, it is based on a person’s ability to be empathetic and capture grateful emotions that promote prosocial behavior. As an attribute, gratitude describes the habit of being grateful, noticing the small things in life and appreciating the positive in the world and other people. Gratitude can be felt from helping others and the usual focus on the good in your life.

A study published in Clinical Psychology Review found that gratitude has a positive effect on psychopathology, especially depression, adaptive personality traits, positive social relationships and physical health, including stress and sleep. In addition, they noted that “the benefits of gratitude for kindness can be significant.”12

Fox also explains, “The benefits associated with gratitude include better sleep, more exercise, reduced symptoms of physical pain, lower levels of inflammation, lower blood pressure and other benefits. something we associate with better health, “13 including improved strength.

It is likely that gratitude will lead to benefits through many mechanisms, not just by promoting life satisfaction.14 but also by contributing to increasing healthy activities and being willing to seek help for health problems.15 Those who are grateful are even found to have a better understanding of the meaning of life by being aware of good family work and peer relationships.16

Gratitude Can Help You Sleep Better, Be Non -Materialistic

Gratitude is known to facilitate the development of healthy eating17 and can benefit from depression by boosting self -esteem and well -being.18 In addition, people who are more grateful are more likely to:19

  • Happier
  • Not very materialistic
  • They are less likely to suffer burnout

A 2021 study comparing gratitude and optimism both found that the two traits were related to:20

Low heart rate and blood pressure Better quality of sleep
More exercise Not too much stress
More positive expectations and reflections Greater sense of appreciation towards others

Feeling compassionate can help you sleep better and longer, too, perhaps by improving your thoughts before bed. “The relationship between gratitude and each of the sleep variables is mediated by more positive pre-sleep cognitions and less negative pre-sleep cognition,” according to a study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research.21

Those who scored higher on the gratitude measures had better sleep quality and duration of sleep and less sleep latency (the amount of time you need to fall asleep) and daytime dysfunction. Among teenagers, the simple practice of keeping a journal of gratitude can greatly reduce materialism while minimizing the negative impact of materialism on generosity.22

Those who write what they are grateful for donate another 60% of their income to charity, for example. There is good reason to teach children the importance of gratitude, too, because doing so can improve school performance and orient individuals to a positive way of life.23

Positive Gratitude Interventions

Fox likens gratitude to a muscle that needs to be trained- something you can practice and become better at over time:24

“I think gratitude can be more like a muscle, like a trained response or a skill that we can develop over time as we learn to recognize abundance and gifts and things. which we have not noticed before is important. And that itself is a skill that can be practiced and demonstrated over time.

Rather than a magic bullet, Fox added, it’s the regular practice of gratitude that can make a difference: “You know, it’s like water breaking through a rock in a canyon,” he said. “It can’t be done all at once, and it’s a consistent practice where you start getting things done.”25 Two “gratitude interventions” you can try in your daily life to improve gratitude include keeping a journal of gratitude and expressing gratitude.

With a gratitude journal, you write lists of what you are grateful for often. The attitude of expressing gratitude includes expressing grateful feelings to others, such as saying thank you or writing thank -you letters, which you will read to recipients.26

Showing gratitude to your spouse is also a great way to improve your relationship. In a study of romantic partners, gratitude from interactions was associated with increased connection and relationship satisfaction, with researchers suggesting, “gratitude has a unique predictive power in relationship promotion, perhaps acting as a booster shots for the relationship. “27 Emmons also shares tips on living more appreciatively:28

  • Remember the difficult times in your life, reminding you how much you need to be grateful now. “[T]his difference is fertile ground for gratitude, ”Emmons said.29
  • Appreciate what it means to be human by listening and appreciating your sense of touch, sight, smell, taste and hearing.
  • Use visual reminders, including people, to evoke gratitude. This helps to overcome “the two main obstacles to gratitude,” which Emmons cites as “forgetfulness and lack of thoughtfulness.”30
  • Make an oath of gratitude. Just swearing to be grateful will increase the likelihood that you will stay in character, so write a note that “promises to count your blessings” and post it somewhere where you can see it often.

If you want to start now, put a notebook by the side of your bed and make it a point to write down a thing or two you are thankful for each night before bed, and always express gratitude to others, such as writing a quick thank you letters to friends.

Reprinted from with permission from the author

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