Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that one should “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
Among the top habits of successful individuals around the world is that they embrace gratitude, many of them keeping gratitude journals as part of their daily activities. But did you know that practicing gratitude also offers real and lasting health benefits? Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Gratitude?
Greater Good Magazine states that gratitude occurs in two parts. The first, is an “affirmation of goodness.” The second part involves the acknowledgement that others, or even higher powers, grant us blessing and gifts, so that we can achieve goodness in our lives.
There are many different definitions of gratitude floating around. Most of these definitions involve some combination of acknowledgement of blessings in one's life, and the act of appreciating those blessings. Almost all agree that gratitude is important for improving happiness, and boosting physical and psychological health.
At the end of the day, gratitude is something that must be cultivated through consistent action. People use different tools to practice and express gratitude, including things like:
- Keeping gratitude journals.
- Writing their blessings on slips of paper, and adding them to a “gratitude jar.”
- Writing “Thank You” notes and letters to people in your life who have helped and/or inspired you.
- Meditating and focusing on the things in your life for which you are most grateful.
- Telling other people in your life that you are grateful for them.
Below you will learn a few of the health benefits you can experience by adopting an attitude of gratitude in your daily journey.
What Are the Health Benefits of Gratitude?
There are many studies that have been conducted over the years regarding the health benefits gratitude engenders. These are a few examples of remarkable findings through these studies that address real-world health benefits of gratitude.
- Gratitude can reduce hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) in women. A study conducted by Neal Krause of both men and women revealed that women who experienced strong feelings of gratitude to God were known to have lower HbA1c (blood glucose levels). Unfortunately, the same results did not present for men.
- Gratitude may improve the wellbeing of people with Stage B, asymptomatic heart failure. According to a study conducted by Paul Mill, Laura Redwine, and others, people who have experienced structural heart damage, but show no visible symptoms, experience fewer instances of fatigue and depression, get better sleep, and have lower levels of systemic inflammation than those who are not. More importantly, patients who practiced daily gratitude journaling for eight weeks showed fewer inflammation indicators at the end of the study.
- Psychology Today reports about a 2012 study that revealed grateful people experience fewer aches and pains. They also reported feeling healthier than those who do not practice gratitude.
- Gratitude reduces blood pressure. According to Positive Psychology, people who engage in efforts to count their blessings at least once weekly experience marked decreases in blood pressure, which improves overall health.
- Gratitude can improve sleep. A study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research revealed that grateful people enjoy better quality sleep, and sleep longer.
These health benefits are in addition to the psychological health benefits gratitude delivers as well as the interpersonal benefits, relationship-building benefits, and so much more.
It may take a little time for you to truly feel the gratitude you express in writing, through meditation, or as part of your daily journey. However, the benefits of practicing gratitude as you go about your life are immeasurable in sleep quality, health, happiness, and peace.
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