While many of us think gratitude is just something nice we can practice during the Thanksgiving Holiday Season, it turns out that giving thanks throughout the year can have substantial and powerful effects on your overall well-being. According to Harvard Medical School, “gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” While the benefits of gratitude are vast, the improvement of health is one that is essential to our wellness community. According to Forbes, “Numerous studies have examined the relationship between gratitude and physical health markers such as cardiovascular health, stress and inflammation, pain perception, and sleep.”
Read below on 5 ways gratitude can improve your health.
Health Benefits of Gratitude
1.) Enhances Sleep Quality
Research in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research has found that feeling grateful helps people sleep better and longer. This is most likely because when you are feeling grateful, your mood is more positive and your mind is clearer before hitting the hay. Anxious thoughts aren’t keeping you up, but instead, feelings of gratitude are tucking you in for a restful night of sleep.
2.) Improves Mental Health
One 2020 study showed that regularly practicing gratitude can help ease symptoms of anxiety and depression. When we are appreciative of what we have or even what we know is on its way, we shift our mental perspective for the better.
3.) Boosts the Immune System
Gratitude lowers the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol is too high in the body, the immune system is suppressed. Practicing gratitude allows us to get into rest and digest mode (otherwise known as the parasympathetic state of the nervous system), where our immune system performs most optimally.
4.) Helps Overcome Trauma
The Guest House, a treatment facility for those suffering from trauma and addiction, discussed various studies on how gratitude can help people move through trauma. They highlighted a 2017 study in the Psychological Trauma journal that examined the role of gratitude in 359 survivors of a college campus shooting. The people who scored high in gratitude were able to transform their stress into growth in the aftermath of trauma. In a 2019 study in Frontiers in Psychology, 42 people with breast cancer who had a daily gratitude practice reported high self-esteem, optimism, acceptance of illness, and greater social support, compared to those without a daily gratitude practice.
5.) Strengthens Social Well-Being
When we are grateful for our life and for those who are in it, our relationships become richer and we feel more connected to our work, school, and home lives. A study found that expressions of gratitude by managers motivated employees to be more productive in their daily work. Another 2016 study found that keeping a gratitude diary increased students' sense of belonging.
Ways to Practice Gratitude
Now that you know how gratitude can help improve your health, here are some tips on how to practice gratitude. Be sure to practice the following with authenticity so that your actions are coming from a place of genuine appreciation; the best way to see results is by practicing genuine gratitude.
Write in a weekly gratitude journal.
Listen to a gratitude meditation.
Send a grateful text to a loved one or an acquaintance with specific reasons why you appreciate them (or something they’ve done/are doing that you're proud of).
Volunteer at a local charity or organization that helps others. This is a great way to show appreciation for your community and give you some life perspective.
Create a gratitude jar where you and your loved ones can write down what you are grateful for throughout the month on pieces of paper, place those pieces of paper in the gratitude jar, and then read them all together at the end of the month.
Write a thank you note to someone who you’ve been meaning to show appreciation to or who would benefit from some praise.
Pray, meditate, or speak to whatever higher power gives you comfort, even if that higher power is just the beautiful sun in the sky.
Morning/Nightly Gratitude Reflection: Upon waking, place a hand on your heart and think about what you're grateful for in your life before you start your day. Before you go to bed retrace your steps from the day and think about what happened during the day that you can be grateful for before going to sleep.
November is a great time to express gratitude, but remember to incorporate gratitude practices into your life on a consistent basis all year long! Not only will your emotional, mental, and physical health improve, but so will your life overall! There is so much power in perspective, so make sure you uplevel your own mindset with grateful thoughts and feelings.
Written by Michelle Eggink NTP
Nutritional Therapy Practitioner
Meditation & Mindfulness Teacher
Ceremonial Breathwork Facilitator