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10 proven benefits of gratitude
How being grateful improves mental and physical health
We all know people who seem to always find the “silver lining” in life. People who see the glass as half full, no matter the circumstances. What’s their secret? It isn’t that it’s an innate part of their personality, although it may seem that way. Chances are, these people are practicing gratitude.
Tony knows the benefits of gratitude well. He’s been a proponent of the health benefits of gratitude since his early days, because as he says, “You can’t be angry and grateful simultaneously. You can’t be fearful and grateful simultaneously.” Gratitude is the antidote to the emotions that, when left unchecked, cause some of our biggest problems in life. But how exactly does it work – and how does it help us?
Psychological benefits of gratitude
The act of being grateful activates different parts of your brain, including the hypothalamus, which regulates hormones. These chemical reactions have a very real effect on your well-being. The psychological benefits of gratitude have been proven again and again.
Decreased negative emotions
With all that’s going on in the world, it can be tempting to focus on the negative, but when you focus on the positive, the world seems to give you positivity in return. Gratitude creates a feedback loop that reduces toxic emotions like envy, anger and regret. It can also reduce stress – and that leads to many of the other health benefits of gratitude.
The benefits of gratitude go beyond your own emotions – being grateful can actually make you more open to the emotions of others. Studies have shown gratitude increases empathy and therefore changes behavior, including reducing aggression and decreasing the desire to retaliate. Yes, it’s true – gratitude can make the world a better place.
You might think you need to start off as an optimistic person in order to experience the benefits of gratitude, but the opposite is true. Gratitude itself can improve your outlook. It’s been shown to decrease depressive symptoms and even reduce suicidal ideation. It’s no wonder gratitude is often used as part of a larger strategy to treat depression and anxiety.
Social media, celebrity news stories and constant advertising can cause us to compare ourselves to others, rather than appreciating the abundance in our own lives. This inevitably leads to envy, resentment and low self-esteem. Gratitude reverses those effects, reducing social comparisons and increasing our life satisfaction.
More inner strength
Think of someone who faces adversity with mental toughness and comes out stronger on the other side. Where do they find that inner strength? They may have discovered one of the psychological benefits of gratitude: better adaptive coping abilities. One famous study even found that gratitude contributed to resilience in the aftermath of 9/11. Even in the worst of circumstances, those who find things to be thankful for can find ways to dig deep and benefit from the strength they discover within themselves.
Physical health benefits of gratitude
The brain is our most powerful organ. Our thoughts influence our behaviors, our state and even our physical health. That’s why, in addition to the psychological effects like reduced stress and increased optimism, we also see many amazing health benefits of gratitude.
According to the CDC, one in three American adults doesn’t get enough sleep. That means they’re missing out on proven health benefits like reduced chances of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Gratitude can help. Those who rate themselves as more grateful report better sleep quality, longer sleep and a greater ability to fall asleep quickly.
Perhaps it’s the sleep benefits that lead to this proven health benefit of gratitude: Studies have found numerous ways it improves heart health. Benefits include reduced inflammation, lower hemoglobin A1c and better heart rate variability – all indicators of good heart health. In addition to eating a healthy diet and exercising, gratitude may be just what your heart needs to stay strong.
More drive to exercise
While studying the benefits of gratitude, two researchers got a surprising result: in addition to fewer headaches, reduced nausea and other positives, participants reported increased drive to exercise. And the health benefits of exercise are well-known. Leverage this new inspiration by finding a form of exercise you enjoy and making it a part of your daily routine.
Lower blood pressure
In a 2007 study that quickly became a classic, patients with hypertension who “counted their blessings” had lower blood pressure than those who didn’t. In a more recent study, women who kept a gratitude journal for two weeks experienced lower blood pressure than those who just wrote about daily events. That’s right – one of the biggest benefits of gratitude is available to anyone who keeps a journal.
We intuitively know that friendships and romantic relationships are one of the best parts of life. Gratitude can help you keep those relationships strong. Expressing how thankful you are for your partner improves the quality of the relationship. And showing your friends appreciation can help you win even more new friends. These deep bonds help reduce loneliness and lengthen lifespan – some of the best health benefits of gratitude out there.