Can Gratitude Make You Physically Healthier?
Gratitude has entered the wellness conversational sphere over the past several years in a big way. As researchers connect more and more benefits to the mindful practice, an increasing number of people are consciously making gratitude a part of their everyday lives.
Making a habitual effort to acknowledge and appreciate your good fortunes has been consistently linked to an improved quality of life.
Benefits of Gratitude:
- Increased optimistic outlook on life
- Stronger quality of personal relationships
- More positive emotions
- Increased resilience in the face of adversity
- More appreciation for positive experiences
An article published by Harvard Medical School states,
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
So, how about physical health benefits? Can gratitude reduce rates of illness, speed up recovery times, or improve your metabolism?
While it’s a relatively new area of study, the findings thus far are mixed… but promising.
A number of studies, including those that instructed participants to keep a paper or online gratitude journal for a period of time, resulted in reported greater physical wellbeing. People in the studies noted fewer health issues such as respiratory infections, headaches, colds, acne, or gastrointestinal problems, and also visited the doctor’s office less frequently.
Not all studies of this nature yielded positive results, however. Some – mostly those that employed short-term gratitude habits – showed minimal to no physical health benefits. These mixed findings could suggest that a long-term gratitude practice is more impactful on physical health than a short-term routine.
Other studies have tied gratitude to improved quality of sleep. Participants who added a regular gratitude practice, such as journaling, into their routine enjoyed more satisfying levels of sleep and longer sleep duration.
Furthermore, gratitude practices have been shown to correlate positively with heart health. A study from 2016 concluded that people who kept a gratitude journal for a few weeks ended the study with lower blood pressure than the control group. In another study focused on people with existing health issues, adding in a gratitude routine resulted in lower rates of fatigue, depression, and systemic inflammation.
So, to conclude:
- There is general evidence to support a link between regular gratitude practices and improved physical health
- Studies have shown that gratitude can specifically improve sleep and heart health
- This area of study is actively being researched further, encouraged by society’s growing interest in the subject of gratitude
- Many of the positive findings were self-reported, implying that participants in these studies perceived a higher quality of physical health regardless of other components.
Another important note is that when people practice gratitude, they tend to engage in other healthy practices as well, such as exercising more and eating healthier. Therefore, since gratitude has the power to lift your mood, improve your outlook on life and raise your likelihood to engage in other positive habits, all of those impacts can consequently benefit your physical wellbeing.
So, how can you incorporate gratitude into your regular routine like you do with physical exercise?
Gratitude Practices That Take 10-20 Minutes:
- Keep a gratitude journal. Take 15 minutes or so at the end of each day to reflect on positive things that happened that day. Give them a written shout-out. No one else has to read it.
- Meditate. When you focus on the moment, you become more present. Try sitting down for a ten-minute mediation in which you focus specifically on what you’re grateful for.
- Pick a day to engage in weekly reflections. Even if this week just felt mediocre, mentally comb back over it and acknowledge the moments that made you feel good. Even the small ones.
- Write a note to someone who deserves a thank you. Is there someone who you’ve been meaning to reach out to but haven’t gotten around to it? Take pen to paper (or mouse-click to email) and write down some thoughts expressing what that person means to you. Chances are, it’ll mean a lot to him or her, and also make you feel good in the process.
Pressed for time? No worries. Practicing gratitude can also take less than a minute.
Gratitude Practices That Take Less Than A Minute:
- When you stop at the first red light on the way to work, close your eyes and think of one thing that you’re feeling grateful for today. Picture it so clearly that it seems to be right in front of you and hold it in your mind until the light turns green… or you get honked at.
- Keep a small gratitude notebook in your bathroom drawer. While you’re brushing your teeth, take it out and write down one thing you’re grateful for that day.
- Text someone who did something nice for you this week. This could be someone who bought you a coffee one day, said something uplifting to you when you needed it, or just provides warmth to your life in a way that you’d like to recognize. Just say thanks and tell them that what they did was meaningful to you.
- As you’re lying in bed about to fall asleep, picture something you’re grateful for. Thinking of something that makes you happy before you fall asleep takes the place of any negative nighttime rumination or anxiety you may be prone to.
- Thank people more. The barista, the bus driver, a co-worker – if someone, even a stranger, does something nice for you, acknowledge it. Small expressions of gratitude like saying “thank you” even when you don’t feel like it, can have big benefits on the tone of your day.
And yes – to address a common question – the things you’re acknowledging can be small. If you catch yourself expressing thankfulness for the same major blessings in your life (i.e. family, friends, your job), switch it up by also appreciating the mundane. Maybe your morning coffee was a bright spot in your day, or your co-worker complimented you this afternoon. Give them some mental shout-outs.
Taking even just one moment each day to consciously appreciate elements of your life has the power to boost your psychological and physical wellbeing. Once you build this habit into your regular routine, gratitude will feel just that – regular and routine. Imagine the lift to your daily outlook, energy, and way of life if gratitude became a seamless part of the way you approach each and every day.
Partnering with a doctor who understands you and can provide guidance in the areas of your health that are most important to you is another key part of improving your wellbeing. SteadyMD makes it easy, by pairing you with a doctor based on your individual medical needs, preferred diet & exercise routine, and lifestyle.
Click here to take a 90 second quiz that will show you what doctors of ours would be your ideal match.Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Pinterest