The Health Benefits of Gratitude

The holiday season is a time of reflection and appreciation. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, people are celebrating the present, while anxiously awaiting the future.

November, known as National Gratitude Month, illustrates how being thankful can positively affect one’s mental and physical state. Here are some surprising ways gratitude can benefit your health:

  • Better Sleep: One study found participants who actively practiced gratitude experienced an improved quality of sleep. They rested longer and maintained a higher energy level throughout the day.
  • Healthier Heart: Gratitude has a figurative and literal effect on one’s heart. Research shows it can reduce inflammation and improve vessel function, as well as lower blood pressure levels.
  • Improves Self-Esteem: Being thankful can generate a new appreciation for the mind, body and soul. Instead of dwelling on one’s flaws, expressing gratitude builds confidence and promotes self-acceptance.
  • Increases Patience: Individuals who practice gratitude are more likely to make thoughtful and strategic decisions. Instead of seeking instant gratification, they wait for better opportunities, generating more positive outcomes.
  • Promotes Physical Health: People who regularly give thanks report a decrease in chronic pain, headaches and congestion, as well as clearer skin. They exercise more frequently and attend regular checkups, leading to significant improvements in overall health.
  • Reduces Stress: One study found that individuals who wrote in a gratitude journal were less stressed than those who didn’t. They also experienced a notable reduction in envy, resentment, frustration and regret—all of which can take a serious toll on one’s mental health.
  • Stronger Relationships: Showing appreciation can help cultivate and strengthen relationships. Whether through words or gestures, it helps individuals feel more connected, reinforcing their bond.

Different Ways to Express Gratitude

There is no one way to practice gratitude. It’s a personal act that manifests differently for everyone. Here are simple, yet effective ways to be appreciative of one’s self and others:

  • Be of Service: Volunteer your time and provide aid. Caring for other people, especially those in severe need, teaches compassion, generosity and empathy.
  • Be Self-Aware: Gratitude requires one to be fully present. Look for opportunities, big or small, to be thankful for. Embrace and savor each moment by concentrating on what’s truly important.
  • Send Thank You Cards: Expressing gratitude is both an internal and external behavior. Show appreciation to loved ones and colleagues, by sending thank you cards, emails or texts. It’s a thoughtful action that can change the tone and direction of someone’s day.
  • Think Positive: Life is full of ups and downs. Concentrate on the good and make that a focal point. Find the positive in negative situations by brainstorming solutions instead of dwelling on the problem.
  • Write it Down: Start a gratitude journal noting everything you’re thankful for. This can be expressed in words, drawings or photographs representing people, places or events. Try to highlight three things to be grateful for each day.

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Photo credit: Alagich Katya

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