Gratitude and Your Health
- by Medical Group of Pennsylvania
This week, families across the United States will be sitting down to a meal and taking a few moments to share what they are grateful for. Science has recently shown that there are mental and physical health benefits of having an attitude of gratitude. Read on to learn about the benefits of being gracious and tips for working gratitude into your life.
What is Gratitude?
According to Harvard Medical School, gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature or a higher power.
In other words, gratitude is being grateful for what you have, no matter how small it may be. It’s taking a moment to appreciate the things around you – a warm cup of coffee or tea on a crisp fall morning, the laughter of your children, or your community of friends and neighbors who care about you. Even on a bad day, it’s possible to find something to be grateful for.
The Science Behind Gratitude
In recent years, researchers in a number of fields have been discovering connections to gratitude.
Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
A study in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being by psychology professor Nancy Digdon found that writing in a gratitude journal for just 15 minutes before bed daily helped study participants worry less, get to sleep faster and have better quality of sleep.
Researchers are in the early stages of studying gratitude and physical health. Preliminary research suggests that grateful people may have better sleep, healthier hearts and fewer aches and pains. It’s not yet clear if it’s a correlative or causational relationship – researchers are still trying to understand if those who are healthier tend to be more grateful or if it can work the other way around as well.
How to Add Gratitude to Your Daily Life
There are a number of easy ways to add gratitude into your daily routine. As previously mentioned, spending 15 minutes writing in a gratitude journal before going to sleep each night can have real beneficial effects on your sleep. If that sounds like a big commitment, try starting small by thanking someone who holds the door for you, writing a thank you note to a friend, or just sending a quick text to let a family member know you are grateful to have them in your life.
There are excellent guides available through the University of Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine to help you start a practice of gratitude no matter how much time you have available.
We want to hear from you! How do you practice gratitude in your life? Has it made a positive difference for you? Let us know in the comments below.
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