If you’ve ever told yourself anything like, “I need to exercise more” or “I wish I could stop the negative chatter in my head” but you’ve never quite accomplished either, have I got a smart and simple solution for you! Gratitude.
Yep, scientists have proven that gratitude can have measurable effects on our overall wellbeing and very specific benefits to our physical and mental health.
This is the perfect time to start (or refresh) a habit of gratitude: a daily practice of words and deeds that generate a sense of goodness our lives. With Thanksgiving Day just a couple of weeks away, giving thanks is naturally on our minds. But more than that, the holiday season is for many of us a stressful, non-stop time, while others may experience bouts of seasonal depression or anxiety.
Gratitude to the rescue!
Research proves that professing and feeling gratitude improves one’s emotional state, life experiences, health and relationships. The word comes from the Latin gratia (grace, favor, goodwill). So practicing gratitude literally brings grace into our lives. It helps us connect to something outside of ourselves—whether it’s other people, nature, or a higher power.
Without going all science-y on you, here are five surprising benefits that gratitude brings to your life and your health.
1. Grateful people exercise more, have fewer aches and pains and generally feel healthier than other people.
In a study by noted gratitude expert Dr. Robert A. Emmons, participants were asked to write just a few sentences a week about things they were grateful for. Another group wrote about things that annoyed or irritated them, and a third group wrote about events in their life (not specifically positive or negative). Participants that focused on gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives compared to the group that focused on irritations.
2. Practicing gratitude can decrease a range of negative feelings, from regret and resentment to envy and frustration.
3. You’ll sleep better. Spending just 15 minutes a night before bedtime writing in a gratitude journal was shown to improve sleep in a study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. It makes sense if that’s the last thing your brain is thinking about, instead of a news program of the latest doomsday headlines, sports, or a movie.
4. Gratitude can reduce aggression and increases empathy and compassion, according to a study by the University of Kentucky in 2012. Those who ranked higher on gratitude scales exhibited greater sensitivity and empathy toward others, even when given negative feedback, as well as a reduced desire to seek revenge.
5. Gratitude can actually boost your immune system! By promoting feelings of optimism, being thankful stimulates the production of red blood cells which in turns boosts our immunity to disease.
All of these benefits are great, but like any practice the question is, how do you start and more importantly, stick with it? The good news is, there are a lot of simple and practical ways to incorporate more gratitude into your daily life and routine. What’s important is the intention to feel gratitude for someone or something, and to express it in some way.
One of the easiest ways is to cultivate a habit of writing a thank-you note a week to someone who has done you a good turn or provided a great service. My friend Dawn Mena has five ways to write thank you’s that will create raving fans. What a great start!
For more ways to experience the everyday grace of gratitude, I’ve put together 20 simple ways to practice gratitude. It’s surprisingly easy to make thankfulness a part of your daily life and routine and reap all those benefits!
Why not just try and see what happens when you experience and express gratitude? What have you got to lose?
I’d love to hear your results and what effects you see in your life and wellbeing with a gratitude practice. Share your experiences on the Facebook page—and thank you in advance!
Featured image (c) 2013 Shay CochraneRead More