We all know that being physically active and eating well can have positive effects on our health, but did you know that the simple act of practicing thankfulness and gratitude can positively impact your health?

For the most part, we tend to reserve our expressions of gratitude and thankfulness for special occasions, holidays and perhaps the occasional Uber driver who gets you to your second cousin’s wedding on time. However, people who are more grateful or thankful on a daily basis experience a wide variety of health benefits ranging from better sleep to less anxiety and depression.

The Science Behind Gratitude and Thankfulness:

Better Sleep

Research shows that gratitude increases the quality of sleep, lengthens the duration of sleep, and decreases the time it takes to fall asleep. Gratitude activates the hypothalamus which controls sleep and, in turn, improves the overall quality of our sleep.

Stress Relief

In a 2007 study, participants with hypertension (high blood pressure) were asked to count their blessings once a week. Results showed an average of a 10% reduction in blood pressure.

Another study had subjects integrate acts of appreciation into their lives on a daily basis. Upon conclusion, participants showed a 23% decrease in cortisol levels (one of the body’s stress hormones) and 80% showed improvements in heart rate variability.

Reduced Anxiety and Depression

In a 2012 study, researchers studied the effects of gratitude on individuals with depression and anxiety. They found that regardless of quality of sleep, subjects saw improvements in depressive symptoms. With anxiety on the other hand, gratitude improved the subjects’ sleep which in turn had a huge influence on lowering anxiety levels.

Decreased Pain Levels

In a 2003 study, sick patients were asked to keep a gratitude journal and their self-reported health outcomes were recorded throughout the process. During the study, 16% saw a decrease in their symptoms, 10% saw a decrease in pain and the vast majority were also more willing to exercise as a result.

Practicing gratitude helps to cultivate a mindset of positivity that we are in desperate need of in today’s society. It doesn’t matter if you are on mountain top or walking through a valley in life; being grateful for even the little things can have a profound effect on your health. One of the easiest ways to do this is to create a gratitude journal. If you have never kept a journal before, you may not know where to start. To make it easy, follow the three categories below every night before bed and to start incorporating more gratitude into your life.

Your Gratitude Journal 

  1. Write down 2 things you are grateful for.
  2. Write down something that made you smile today.
  3. Write down something you are excited for tomorrow.

“Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul” – Amy Collette

“Gratitude makes sense of the past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”   –Melody Beattie

Be Blessed,

Dr. B