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Gratitude and Your Health

Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Gratitude is a foundation for this cozy and festive holiday. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. This year at the Thanksgiving dinner table, go around and state something you each feel grateful for. You can further enjoy the benefits of practicing gratitude by doing this year round.  

Being thankful can have many positive health effects. Studies show practicing gratitude can lead to more intimate and connected relationships, less depression, more motivation and engagement, and better overall mental well-being.

Gratitude improves one’s outlook on life. Appreciating what you have can make you feel more optimistic and satisfied, as well as experience less frustration, envy, and regret. It also tends to result in increased self-esteem and confidence, which helps improve mood. It also has a significant impact on enhancing relationships. We are often attracted to positive people; this positivity also makes one easier to get along with and talk to, even about difficult things. Being thankful for the important people in your life is more likely to be reciprocated. Mutual appreciation for each other often results in a more satisfying relationship. When you are less envious and focused on material things that you don’t have, you in turn invest more energy in what you do have and what’s right in front of you.

In addition, gratitude improves physical health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and they report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences. Overall, those who practice gratitude experience less sickness. Grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health.  They exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups with their doctors, which is likely to contribute to further longevity. Another health benefit of gratitude is that it helps to relieve and reduce stress. Stress can cause or exacerbate illness, and being able to combat stress with gratitude enables people to enjoy improved health.

Research has proven that gratitude has a positive effect on sleep. People who practice gratitude right before bedtime, by listing those things they feel grateful for, report better sleep. This is likely because gratitude diminishes anxiety and stressful feelings, allowing for a more restful and relaxed entry to sleep. This goes hand in hand with brain health and healthy aging. When you take good care of your body by getting enough sleep, reducing stress, as well as maintaining emotional and social wellness, you increase overall well being. All of these are important factors in terms of keeping ourselves in optimal health as we age.

How do you start practicing gratitude? Listing three things for which you are grateful, big and small, on a daily basis for even two weeks can make a difference in overall mood. Keeping an ongoing gratitude journal is a great way to turn this into a habit. Sharing with your partner what about them you feel grateful for can bring the two of you closer. Writing a note to someone you feel is deserving of your thanks can shift your focus to the positive, and a recent study revealed that note will mean more than you think to its recipient. Savoring positive experiences by being fully in the moment and practicing mindfulness cultivates gratitude.

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