Unless you’ve been living on a remote tropical island (and during recent turbulent times you may have been tempted to escape there), you have seen the growing evidence about the huge positive impact gratitude has on your health. As little as five minutes a day of focused gratitude, the no-cost quality of life booster, contributes to impressive improvements not only in emotional health, but also in physical, social, and spiritual health.
Some may ask, “what is gratitude?” Gratitude is a different emotion from happiness because it is most often a reaction to another individual’s generosity. The trigger, according to science, is to receive a message from someone else, interpret it as beneficial to yourself, and experience thankfulness.
Repeatedly, studies have shown that performing simple gratitude exercises, like keeping a gratitude diary or writing letters of thanks, can produce a range of impressive health benefits that often continue well after the expressions of gratitude are finished.
Ready to boost all your dimensions with some thank you’s? Here are 6 positive side effects of being grateful:
1. Physical Benefits
People who experience and express gratitude report feeling healthier than other people and report fewer aches and pains. This positive attitude creates a generous snowball of good health since thankful people are also more likely to exercise more often and visit their doctor regularly, which is likely to contribute to further longevity. The health benefits of a daily gratitude journal have been proven to decrease depression and anxiety, as well as improve cardiovascular function in heart patients.
A free health booster for us all? Grab a pen before bed and spend a mere 15 minutes jotting down what you are grateful for that day, and odds are you will sleep better and longer. That increases not only your quality but also potentially the quantity of your life.
2. Adds To Your Emotional Bank Account Balance
The math of your emotional bank account is pretty simple: positive emotions contribute, negative emotions withdraw. More positive + less negative = Higher emotional balance. Research shows that when it comes to your emotional bank account, gratitude is like a generous grandma who just can’t stop giving, and defends her sweet one against all negative withdrawals.
The simple act of writing a thank-you note to someone who has blessed you produces profound good feelings, empathy, and optimism. Remembering the moment that inspired the thank you card, in turn, produces even more positive emotions, a sort of cascading happiness effect.
Not only does gratitude increase well-being and happiness, it also shuts down emotional withdrawals by decreasing toxic emotions such as envy, resentment, frustration, guilt, and regret. No wonder small daily deposits of gratitude can have a compounding effect on your emotional bank account. So, go write grandma that thank you note you’ve been meaning to send. She’s earned your interest!
“Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.” – Fred De Witt Van Amburgh
3. Builds Stronger Relationships
Grateful people appear warm and responsive, which increases their trust in others and influences them to approach and bond with their benefactors. Researchers refer to this as the “broaden-and-build theory” of positive emotions, where positive feelings encourage us to seek out new experiences, people, and activities. This comfort zone expansion increases the odds of finding high-quality relationship partners.
Expressions of thanks can also reinforce the bonds of current relationships, through the give-and-take of mutual gratitude. This immediate effect of greater joy contributes to long-term social success, so much that the person receiving gratitude reaps rewards in personal well-being and relationship satisfaction up to six months after the deliberate gratitude expression. That’s a powerful social benefit!
4. Better Work Environment
The impact of gratitude can even improve your work environment. A simple daily practice of reflecting on the parts of your job you are grateful for has been proven to positively impact your productivity, goal achievement, decision-making and networking skills.
Not only can being thankful help you manage your job responsibilities more effectively, but it also reduces job-related stress and burnout. Knowing this, it’s not hard to see how small doses of thankfulness could result in increased job satisfaction, but also a potential promotion, when you play your thank you cards right!
5. Fills Your Spirit
The spiritual blessings of counting your blessings are profound. Being grateful for what you have improves your self-esteem, which is an essential component to optimal performance and achieving your life purpose.
Recent research on types of gratitude have important significance for not only individuals but society as a whole. Study participants who had reflected on and expressed gratitude for experiences rather than material purchases, were significantly more generous to others and kept less for themselves than did those in the group who reflected on possessions.
One explanation, according to scientists, is that when people feel closer to other humans, they might treat others better. By structuring community experiences and events that promote social and spiritual connection, organizers can encourage more future altruistic behavior, which benefits us all.
“It is impossible to feel grateful and depressed in the same moment.” – Naomi Williams
6. Brain Power
Still skeptical? Even brain scans, hard scientific data, are confirming the astonishing impact of gratitude in 3 fascinating ways. A brain experiencing gratitude toward a specific person is flooded with feel-good hormones which makes you more inclined to desire that feeling again and make you feel attached to others at the same time.
Brain scans show gratitude also does something quite peculiar: it activates the hypothalamus. Being thankful actually makes our metabolism, hunger and other natural bodily functions work more efficiently.
Perhaps most significantly during this high-stress era, gratitude increases mental strength. Remembering all you have to be thankful for, even during the most tragic times of your life, creates resilience and reduces Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
So, there you have it. That “Attitude of Gratitude” isn’t a platitude…it’s a health booster of highest magnitude!
What are you most grateful for today? Let us know in the comments below!
Image courtesy of Twenty20.com