How an Attitude of Gratitude Improves Your Health
My mom and grandmother would always tell me to count my blessings, and every night I would pray about the things, tangible or intangible, I was thankful for. Those things would range from the health of my family to a dog that miraculously showed up at our door. Doing that every night as a child and now into my 40s has given me such peace of mind, inspires me to help others, and probably has helped me sleep with more ease.
Giving gratitude affirms all the good things you have in your life and acknowledging where they came from. It is the understanding that the positive aspects of your life are gifts that should not be taken for granted. In positive psychology research, "gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness." Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, therefore, improving their mental health, which allows them to deal with adversity and stress easier. Gratitude also helps people appreciate good experiences, leading to an increase in life satisfaction and assists in building stronger relationships with the people in their lives.
Studies have linked the Practice of Gratitude to:
1. Making us happier- plain and simple. While this doesn't happen overnight, continuous gratitude practice is a must for long-term feelings of happiness to occur. As little as five minutes a day of gratitude journaling has been shown to trigger a response of happiness, lowering symptoms of depression by 30% as long as the practice was continued.
2. Making us healthier- numerous small control studies show the effectiveness of a multi-week, gratitude-based intervention on lowering blood pressure; further investigation suggested correlations between gratitude and likelihood of quitting smoking, and gratitude and weight loss.
3. Helping us sleep better- Gratitude increases sleep quality, reduces the time required to fall asleep, and increases sleep duration. In one study, gratitude predicted greater subjective sleep quality and sleep duration. Sleep is imperative to good health, it's involved in the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels and the cleansing and detoxification processes of the brain.
4. Improved self-care- practicing gratitude allows us to truly appreciate our health, and doing the right things to maintain it, i.e. getting enough exercise/movement, eating properly and going in for regular/annual doctor visits, which have been shown to result in fewer ailments and time in the doctor's office.
5. Induced pro-social behavior- practicing gratitude makes you more likely to help others with their problems and offer them emotional support. When you are happy and grateful with your life there is an overwhelming desire to help others feel good about their lives. Studies have also demonstrated that gratitude exercises such as writing down what you're grateful for and paying-it-forward results in neural changes that create a positive feedback loop, increasing your ability to experience gratitude in the future.
With December fast approaching, a busy and overwhelming time of the year, let's take the five minutes a day to cultivate gratitude together to give us pause to reflect on all that is good in our lives! For everyday of December, 31 days total, let's acknowledge something/someone we are grateful for.
Ways to express gratitude:
post a photo or quote/what you are grateful for, on Instagram, or in an Instagram story, or on Facebook, any social media platform you prefer, hashtag #31daysofgratitude and tag me @amandasafferwellness, and I will share it on my account!
write it in a journal
tell a person in a live conversation
write a person a note/email
express gratitude whatever way works best for you!
By expressing gratitude, you'll start a shift of looking at everything in more of positive a light, refocusing on what you have instead of what you don't. Practice and consistency of daily gratitude are crucial as you'll be training yourself to let go of the negativity to focus on all the good in your life. Try to practice gratitude every day this month; follow me on Instagram/Facebook for daily reminders.
In good health,