Why Practicing Gratitude Improves Your Health

everythingI’m a colleague of Nan’s. I regularly post here about work, life and sometimes the merging of the two. In the next several days many of us will be thinking about the people, the places and the things we’re thankful for as we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. What we may not realize is, being thankful throughout the year can have tremendous health benefits for us and it is free! This week, I did some fact-finding* and research* on why it is healthy to practice gratitude every day. I thought I would share it here.

So, what is gratitude? Why is it healthy? And, how do you practice it?

According to Merriam-Webster it is a feeling of thankfulness.

Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California at Davis, a leading researcher in a growing field, called positive psychology; found those who adopt an attitude of gratitude as a permanent state of mind experience many health benefits. Emmons and others found people who practice gratitude are more likely to:  take better care themselves physically and mentally, eat a healthier diet and cope better with stress and daily challenges. Sound good?

Writing down what you’re thankful for as you drift off to sleep can help you sleep better. Specifically, researchers found when people spend 15 minutes jotting down what they’re grateful for in a journal before bedtime, they fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Want to sleep better?

Showing appreciation can help in making new friends and strengthen existing relationships. Simple expressions of gratitude including: saying thank you, great job, a smile, writing a thank you note, etc … all of these acknowledgements make for building stronger relationships. Who might this apply to in your life?

Cultivating gratitude is simple. Take a few moments to chat with yourself in a creative, optimistic, and appreciative way. Perhaps reflecting on things for which you’re grateful for, you’re facing a challenging situation, seeing how it can ultimately be beneficial, or you’re feeling overwhelmed and stress, watching your reactions can improve your self-awareness. Be good to yourself, first.

Pick one of these ideas to do every day. Start practicing gratitude and get healthier.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families!


*Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being Journal, Study in Emotion, and Sam Quick, PhD, University of Kentucky