The Health Benefits of Gratitude
There is an old saying about gratitude: If you never learn the language of gratitude, you’ll never be on speaking terms with happiness. These may be words of wisdom, but science actually validates this very notion. Recent research supports the neuroscience of gratitude, which quite simply means the power of positive thinking and feeling grateful translates to increased happiness and better health. Through varied studies, researchers have been able to measure participants’ levels of gratitude and happiness to find out how these factors influence mood, physical and mental health, and even people’s personal and social relationships. They discovered that gratitude provides immense benefits and can have a profound impact on health and quality of life. Gratitude can help you:
- express more positive emotions (e.g., optimism) rather than negative ones
- have more compassion and awareness for others in need
- feel less stress
- lead a more active lifestyle when in a positive state of mind
- keep a balanced sleep schedule
- maintain a strong immune system with fewer reports of illness
- feel an overall sense of social connectedness and personal satisfaction
WFP’s Take-Home Advice
With so much evidence supporting the health benefits of gratitude, here are a few ways to help you cultivate gratitude in your own life:
- Start the practice of gratitude: Begin by thinking about the people, the things, and the circumstances in your life that truly matter to you. Be mindful of why they make you happy and how they are meaningful. Remind yourself that there is always something to be thankful for every day.
- Make it happen: Each day, make it a point to tell your friends or loved ones why you appreciate them. Share a few kind words face-to-face. Send a text message, call, or write a note or letter to express your gratitude. Keep a running gratitude list on your phone or someplace easily accessible to you, such as your refrigerator. When something good happens, add it to the list. Also, never underestimate the value of saying “thank you” or the simple act of giving a hug. Even complimenting someone helps promote gratitude. (Complimenting or thanking yourself counts, too!)
- Make it a routine: Cultivating gratitude takes practice and a conscious effort on your part; it has to be repeated to help you obtain the benefits. Begin with small daily gratitude exercises and build up to the ones that take more time, like writing a letter. Soon, gratitude will become a simple daily practice, one that helps you become healthier and happier!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on December 21, 2016 and has since been updated.
Sources and References:
In Praise of Gratitude. health.harvard.edu. Retrieved December 14, 2016 from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude
Robbins, O. The Neuroscience of Why Gratitude Makes Us Healthier. (2012, January 04). huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved December 13, 2016 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ocean-robbins/having-gratitude-_b_1073105.html
Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude. greatergood.berkely.edu. Retrieved December 13, 2016 from http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/expandinggratitude
Morin. A. 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude. (2015, April 03) psychologytoday.com. Retrieved December 14, 2016 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude