The Health Benefits of Gratitude

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As the holiday season approaches, it’s easy to get lost in all the gatherings, food and presents, and become so mired in what we want for ourselves that we forget to remember all the wonderful things we already have. No one is immune to this – even the mindful peeps in the bunch!

Cultivating a regular practice of gratitude is great for our mental and physical wellbeing. Here are a few reasons why being grateful is so gosh darn fab for our health:

Gratitude gives you a better outlook on life. In one research study, participants were asked to keep gratitude journals and write down five things they were grateful for each week, while another group wrote about five things that hassled them. After 10 weeks, the group who practised gratitude felt happier about their lives, reported fewer health complaints and spent more time exercising. It makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? The better our outlook on life, the more we’ll make the effort to stay healthy.

Gratitude improves our relationships. What’s the secret to a long-lasting, epic romance? Apparently, it’s gratitude. A wide cross-section research shows that people who feel more appreciated by their partners are more likely to stay committed. So don’t forget to say thank you to your sweetie for doing the dishes, or the laundry, or packing you a delicious lunch. In fact, why don’t we apply this to all of our relationships? Showing gratitude to our family, friends, coworkers and strangers can only benefit us all.

Gratitude lowers our stress levels. After learning gratitude techniques, research participants had a 23% reduction in cortisol, our major stress hormone, and a huge boost in DHEA, a precursor to many of our sex hormones. Reduced stress means improved digestion, sleep, immunity and blood sugar levels. All of that sounds pretty good to me. (Need some help fighting stress? Check out these handy tips.)

Gratitude helps you sleep better. In this small study, researchers found that grateful folks reported better quality and longer sleep. Try thinking about a few things you’re grateful for before you go to bed tonight, and see what happens.

Gratitude makes teenagers more bearable. Is there anyone more self-involved and unappreciative than a teenager? Not necessarily. Students who were asked to count their blessings reported feeling more grateful, optimistic and satisfied at school. Perhaps this is another tool educators could use in the fight against bullying.

How to cultivate gratitude

Write it down. Keep a gratitude journal of all of the blessings in your life. Nothing in this world is too small to be grateful for. Not a journaller? Make a list in a notebook. Use a scrap of paper. Make an excel spreadsheet, if that’s your thing. Just get it down so you can read it when you’re feeling grumpy and depressed.

Keep reminders. Post a few things from your gratitude list on your wall, or set an email or phone message that reminds you to be grateful. You could also use something tactile – I have a gratitude stone from the beach on my desk that I hold in my hand as I think about why I’m grateful.

Recruit a gratitude partner. It’s always easier to make a lifestyle change when you’ve got support by your side. Get a friend or loved one to regularly ask you what you’re grateful for, or to remind you of your blessings when you’re complaining about your life.

Question of the Day: How do you practice gratitude?

5 Responses to “The Health Benefits of Gratitude”

  1. Candace

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    When gratitude seems to be getting lost in our house me and my kids always sing a veggietale song that says, “Because a thankful heart is a happy heart. I’m glad for what I have. That’s an easy way to start…” :)

    Reply
  2. Jen

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    Every now and again I have this almost overwhelming feeling of gratitude come over me… I don’t ignore them; I usually sit quietly and enjoy the feeling and think of all the things that I am grateful for…

    Reply
  3. Mary Hulbert

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    Thanks Sondi, yet another of your thoughtful and well-written posts …….. As for practicing gratitude, I think often of my dad. He’s a WW2 navy vet whose ship was torpedoed and sank just outside Halifax Harbour on Dec 24th. Barely 20 and half-frozen, he lost several of his shipmates that day. So when my dad, at 87, says to me “As long as I’m sitting down, and I’m warm, then I’m happy”, how can I not be anything but grateful? Grateful for our abundant freedoms, grateful for the role model he’s been for us, and grateful that in the big scheme of things – what do I really have to complain about? We are so blessed.

    Reply
    • Maeve Gallagher

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      Aw, what a nice addition to this wonderful article, Mary.

      Such a great perspective to have- both yours AND your dad’s. He sounds like a great guy- how could he not be? He made you afterall ;)

      Reply
  4. Sarah @ Kids Heart Real Food

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    Sondi – this is such a timely post! As part of a recent goal-setting exercise I have committed to writing in a gratitude journal at least every other night as a way to start focusing on the good things in my life a little more (as opposed to the stress in my life!) It’s only been a couple of weeks, but it’s a really great way to end the day.
    Thanks for the other tips :)

    Reply

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