Updated: Nov 26
With Thanksgiving coming up shortly, it seems timely to think about how gratitude could benefit you physically and psychologically. Cultivating a gratitude mindset has been associated with numerous psychological and physical benefits. The top five benefits include stress reduction; increased empathy and lower aggression; better immune functioning; better relationships; and reduced symptoms of illness. This post will cover these five benefits, and more, in the hopes that you will consider practicing gratitude as part of your daily life – not just on Thanksgiving!
One of the 5 benefits of gratitude is stress reduction and overall mental health
Gratitude can help mitigate stress by promoting a focus on positive aspects of life. It encourages you to reframe your thoughts, shifting attention away from stressors to things you are thankful for. Studies such as one published in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy (Kashdan, Uswatte, & Julian, 2006), have suggested that gratitude is positively correlated with greater self esteem and positive emotions in people who suffered from post traumatic stress.
In addition, if you tend towards anxiety or depression, gratitude can help improve your mental wellbeing overall. Gratitude has been linked to a lower risk of depression and anxiety. People who regularly practice gratitude tend to experience higher levels of positive emotions and life satisfaction.
A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Emmons & McCullough, 2003) found that individuals who practiced gratitude showed significant increases in well-being and life satisfaction. Additionally, in a study published in Behavior Research and Therapy (Wood, Froh, & Geraghty, 2010), participants who engaged in gratitude exercises reported decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety.
When you're less stressed, you sleep better
Gratitude has been linked to improved sleep quality. Expressing thanks for positive experiences and aspects of life before bedtime may contribute to better sleep.
A study by Wood, Lloyd and Atkins (2008) showed that people who are grateful more often have an easier time sleeping. Sleep is so foundational for mental and physical health that it's a worthwhile investment of your energy in cultivating gratitude.
Incidentally, if you want a guided meditation to help you sleep better, you can check this one out here.
Stress reduction improves blood pressure and your immune system
Some studies suggest that gratitude is associated with a stronger immune system. Positive emotions, including those generated by gratitude, may contribute to better overall health. When you're in a gratitude mindset, you may experience lower blood pressure, potentially due to the stress-reducing effects of gratitude. Gratitude can also positively impact your eating habits, blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation, and help your overall health.
No wonder grateful people may have an overall greater sense of wellbeing. They are more likely to appreciate the present moment and have a positive outlook on the future. They tend to be flexible and adapt to stress better, too.
Gratitude helps you become stress-resilient
If you adopt gratitude, you can become more resilient in the face of adversity. You tend to find positive aspects even in challenging situations, which can contribute to more adaptive coping.
With less stress, you may enjoy a longer, higher quality life than if you focus on what's wrong with life all the time or feel cheated out of a better life. While more research is needed, some studies have suggested that individuals with a more positive outlook, including those who practice gratitude, may live longer.
Want to get along better with people? Try gratitude!
Expressing gratitude fosters a positive social environment. Grateful individuals often have stronger, more positive relationships, as they tend to acknowledge and appreciate the contributions of others. Additionally, gratitude is associated with increased empathy and a decreased inclination toward retaliation or aggression. It promotes prosocial behaviors and a sense of interconnectedness.
A study in the journal, Emotion (Algoe, Haidt, & Gable, 2008) found that gratitude had a beneficial effect on friendships and social relationships in general, as well as promoting relationship formation and maintenance.
How does gratitude sound to you now?
If you're thinking, that all sounds great but how do I do this? you can start with gratitude journals and expressing gratitude to people who have done good things for you in the past. Both of these can cultivate gratitude in you and that can boost your overall wellbeing. Martin Seligman's book, Flourish describes some of the ways you can benefit from positive psychological interventions such as these.
If you'd like to explore gratitude in more depth, please feel free to call me at 661-233-6771.