The Science And Benefits Of Gratitude

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! As we all gather with our loved ones to watch the parade, cheer on our favorite sports team, and enjoy a delicious feast, it’s not uncommon for all of us to take some time to reflect on our lives and express what we are thankful for. After all, it’s no secret that gratitude is a hot topic in news articles, radio talk shows, and even social media posts during this time of the year. 

However, once this single holiday is over, it’s also common for this attitude of gratitude to start to fade away. The further behind us our Thanksgiving celebrations get, the easier it becomes for us to fall back into our regular routine and focus more on our plans for the future rather than the blessings of the present. However, the practice of gratitude doesn’t have to be a seasonal one—in fact, it shouldn’t be. Extending your practice of gratitude throughout the rest of the year can come with a number of benefits for your health. Let’s explore a few of them.  

The Health Benefits of Gratitude

Let’s start with the most talked about benefit of gratitude: the way it impacts your mental health. Many studies over the years have found that people who intentionally practice gratitude each day tend to see positive effects when it comes to their mood. For example, one study determined that gratitude is one of the most powerful methods for boosting positive feelings like happiness, joy, and optimism. Meanwhile, other research has found that practicing gratitude can also help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, and some studies even suggest that being grateful can also help make us more resilient, forgiving, and generous

Gratitude doesn’t only offer psychological benefits, though—it is also great for your physical health. The research on the connection between physical health and gratitude is ongoing, but so far, studies have found a number of different benefits in this area. For example, one study found that intentionally counting your blessings can help improve your quality of sleep. Since sleep is such a vital part of keeping your body and all of its systems healthy, this is a powerful benefit! However, that’s not all. In addition to improved sleep, research suggests that gratitude helps strengthen your immune system, helps manage blood pressure, and even reduces the occurrence of annoying aches and pains. 

What’s more? A theory shared by psychologist Sara Agloe, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, alludes to the fact that gratitude starts from within and spreads to those around us, helping us build stronger emotional connections with loved ones. This theory, known as ‘find-remind-bind,’ suggests that gratitude serves to help us find new people to form relationships with, reminds us to appreciate the relationships we have built, and motivates us to further that bond by investing in those relationships. Essentially, this means that gratitude plays a big role in our social lives, which is an important aspect of health and well-being. 

Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude

With so many benefits for your health, extending your gratitude practice beyond the holidays is a no-brainer. But how should you go about it? Here are three of our favorite ways to incorporate gratitude into your daily routine. 

1. Start With A Thought
Small steps quickly add up to have a big impact, especially when it comes to practicing gratitude. If you are looking for a way to add more gratitude to your day, start small by finding a moment each day to simply think about what you are grateful for. The best way to build this into your routine is to add it to an activity you already do every day, such as while you are making your bed, brushing your teeth, or doing the dishes. Prompt yourself to name at least three things you are grateful for, then as time goes on, you can expand this practice by challenging yourself to increase that number every few days. 

2. Keep a Journal
This is one of the most common gratitude practices out there, but many people shy away from it because they believe journaling is a time-consuming activity. We’re here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be! You can spend as little as 5 minutes a day writing in your journal and still be able to reap the benefits of gratitude. The most important thing is to avoid using your gratitude journal like a grocery list, where you just jot down a few items and leave it at that. Instead, be intentional about what you write down. Really think about why you are grateful for these things and write a short note about the reason you chose each item on that particular day. Another great benefit of keeping a gratitude journal is it gives you something to reflect on later down the road.  

3. Express It To Others
Strengthen your relationships and encourage an attitude of gratitude by making a habit of expressing your gratitude to others. This can be as simple as making a habit of genuinely thanking people more often throughout the day or as involved as handwriting thank you notes to those you feel gratitude toward. Whatever way you choose to express gratitude to others, keep in mind that the most effective forms of gratitude include more than just a ‘thank you,’ they also include acknowledging what the person did and how much effort it took as well as describing how it benefited you. As an added bonus, the simple act of expressing your gratitude to others can help make their day a little brighter too!  

Embrace an Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude helps us reflect on all the amazing ways we have been blessed and encourages us to look forward to better things to come. And at the end of the day, the simple act of incorporating gratitude into your daily routine can add up to amazing benefits to your overall health, which is why we consider it an important part of living the #NewEarthLife. So go ahead. Find small ways to embrace an attitude of gratitude even after the holiday season is over and see for yourself how it can positively change your life. 

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