How an Attitude for Gratitude Can Improve Your HealthMar 01, 2023
Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you’ll have the more to express gratitude for.
Jotting every little thing you’re thankful for into a gratitude journal may feel a little “woo woo,” but there are some science-supported health benefits to acknowledging your appreciation for whatever it is you find meaningful in your life—whether that’s a delicious plate of food or a healthy relationship with a loved one.
While being grateful can look a little different from one person to another, gratitude is generally a disposition or characteristic that allows you to perceive and appreciate the positive and meaningful aspects of life. When you’re feeling grateful for something, you handle that part of life with more care, attentiveness, and consciousness. You tend to have more warm, positive emotions like joy, happiness, and love.
Believe it or not, gratitude can enhance your physical health by reducing stress, which in turn helps you to have a stronger immune system, improves your sleep quality and can lower your blood pressure. It can also improve your mental health in some pretty awesome ways.
Here are 5 ways gratitude impacts your overall health:
1. Protects you from the effects of stress
It’s no secret that what you think about a lot is what you give your attention and time to.
When you spend a lot of time thinking about all the things in life that are negative, you also increase your stress levels and depression. But, if you instead start to think about the things, you feel grateful for, your attention goes to the positives in your life. Stress makes life feel frustrating and draining. Gratitude makes you realize how much good you have in your life. It also helps you remember that you have a lot of things to be thankful for.
2. Motivates you toward better outcomes
When you’re grateful for something, that appreciation is often reflected by and aligned with your outcomes. When you hold gratitude for your health, it will show in your eating habits and physical activity. Gratitude exercises usually lead to more positive outcomes, by encouraging health-promoting behaviors, like healthier eating, and inspiring social behaviors like helping others.
3. Helps regulate your emotions
Gratitude plays a role in your ability to identify and regulate emotions, which makes sense because when you focus your attention on the good in your life, the things that are making you feel sad or worried decrease. This perspective can give you a sense of emotional freedom, regardless of what you face.
4. Elevates your mindset
When you feel grateful, you’ll most likely experience more positive feelings overall. This can have a domino effect because over time your brain creates new habits of finding the good and thinking more positively. Reaping the benefits can take time, but with practice, the pursuit of happiness can be a worthwhile and effective. As you develop a relationship with gratitude, it becomes easier to reframe your thinking during difficult times.
5. Helps you feel more connected to others
Gratitude may help you feel more connected to others and the world around you, which can lead to more happiness and less loneliness. The expression of gratitude and the ability to strengthen your social bonds can help reduce feelings of being lonely or disconnected.
There are so many ways you can begin to be thankful and no one way is the “right” way. Life is about exploring what works best for you, through all the different times in your life. Below are some ideas to help you find what works in your life, and sounds like something you would do every day.
- When you wake up in the morning, think of five things you’re grateful for before you climb out of bed.
- Create a gratitude journal and write out a list of things you’re grateful for at the end of each day. This doesn’t have to be long – it can be as simple as one or two things.
- Make gratitude art on a daily or weekly basis and hang it where you can see it.
- Play gratitude games with your kids or partner. Everyone takes a turn naming one thing. This is great for long car rides or when you’re sitting down to eat together.
- Use your mindfulness practice time to focus on feeling grateful – this could be on a quiet walk or meditation, whatever feels right for you.
- Write a letter, or text, to someone telling them how grateful you are for them and/or something they did for you.
- Create gratefulness games for yourself throughout the day. Gratitude doesn’t have to be serious!
- Use gratitude affirmation cards. Pick one daily and allow that to flow through your mind throughout the day.
You have the power to change your thoughts and perspective – harness that power within and take control of your happiness and your health, one small step at a time.