Health Mind And Body

6 Benefits of Cultivating a Gratitude Practice

How often do you take the time to appreciate the joy that your loved ones bring to your life? Or reflect on how past experiences have led you to a better place? Or even just stop and notice that your morning cup of coffee is really hitting the spot?

Gratitude is something we may not notice that often unless we make a deliberate effort to invite the feeling in. However, taking note of the things that make your life just a little bit better can have a big effect on your overall wellness.

An attitude of thankfulness may help bring:

1. Better Mental Health

It’s probably not a surprise that feeling grateful impacts your emotions. Researchers have reported that thankfulness can help fight mental health issues like stress, burnout, anxiety, and depression.

Gratitude may also go further than simply removing negative thoughts and feelings. Feeling appreciative may also make you happier and feel more satisfied with your life.

2. Improved Sleep

Multiple studies have found that you sleep more soundly when you make an effort to be grateful. Some researchers believe that this is because thankful people have more positive thoughts as they’re trying to fall asleep. If a good night’s rest is something that occasionally eludes you, it may help to add a gratitude practice to your getting-ready-for-bed routine.

3. Fewer Sick Days

Experts say that a thankful mindset may help your immune system work better, which could help fight off disease. Better immunity may, in turn, impact your day-to-day function. People who practice gratitude take fewer sick days from work!

4. Decreased Inflammation

Inflammation is a protective process in your body that can help fight disease and trigger healing. However, long-term inflammation can cause damage. Conditions like heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and allergies are all linked to ongoing inflammation.

Gratitude may change inflammation levels within your body at a molecular level. A study of people with heart disease found that gratitude journaling led to lower levels of inflammatory substances. Although more research is needed, this indicates that being thankful may impact inflammation and related health conditions.

5. Better Relationships

Researchers have found that gratitude is strongly linked with reducing loneliness. Feeling thankful for the people in your life can go a long way toward improving your relationships with them and reduce loneliness.

Being more socially connected also plays a role in your physical and mental health. Lonely people are at greater risk of developing multiple diseases. In one study, people who felt more lonely were 32% more likely to experience an early death.

6. Boosted Physical Health

All of these factors may add up to feeling better physically. If you experience less stress and inflammation and sleep better, your health may very well improve!

Practicing thankfulness may also reverse high blood sugar levels, elevated blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels, which are risk factors for chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Those who frequently feel grateful also tend to practice healthier behaviors like exercising more, drinking and smoking less, and taking their medications as directed. These factors could all lead to better health in the long run!

How To Practice Gratitude

How To Be More Grateful

Want to introduce a gratitude practice into your daily life? You may want to try:

  • Making a list of what you’re thankful for — Quite a bit of gratitude-related research has used this technique to great effect. First, get your hands on a notebook that you’ll use specifically for this purpose, and then choose a certain time of day to record what you’re thankful for. Perhaps you keep your journal next to your bedside table and write in it first thing every morning, or leave it on your desk and write in it at the end of every workday. Write down three people, things, moments, feelings, or situations that have you feeling good.
  • Telling people what they mean to you — Have some special people in your life? You may want to try this technique. Once per week, reach out to someone you care about and tell them why you’re thankful for their presence in your life. Tell them you appreciate them in person over drinks, send a quick text, or write a letter. As a bonus, you may find yourself deepening some of your relationships!
  • Collect feel-good photos — More of a visual person? Take a photo of something that you’re thankful for each day. This can be anything from a cute photo of your pet to a screenshot of a nice Facebook comment left by a friend. Save the mementos in an album on your phone, Instagram account, Pinterest board, or even a physical photo album.
  • Think about the bad times — Take some time to reflect on a challenge you faced in the past. Remind yourself that you overcame it, and take some time to feel thankful for where you are now in life.
  • Turn to mindfulness — We all go through periods when it’s a little bit tougher to feel thankful. In those moments, use your senses to find something in your environment that you can appreciate. Maybe you can send up a quick moment of thanks for some interesting-looking clouds in the sky, the taste of your morning coffee, or the feel of a cozy sweater.

Try one or a couple of these strategies to see what works for you. For best results, make it a goal to practice gratitude every day!

By Mo McNulty

Maureen McNulty studied molecular genetics and English at Ohio State University. She has spent over a decade researching the genetic causes of — and possible treatments for — multiple types of cancer. Maureen is now a medical writer who is passionate about helping people use science to enrich their lives.