4 Ways Being Grateful Can Improve Your Health

What are you grateful for today? Was it easy to name something or did you have to stop and think about it for awhile? If it took you a minute, I get it — sometimes we’re going through things that make it hard to feel grateful. It doesn’t always come naturally to us, but if we can cultivate an ‘attitude of gratitude’ it can have positive implications for our overall wellbeing.

So what is gratitude anyway? Harvard Health describes it as:

…a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves.

Harvard Health

Quote on background of California Poppies watercolor flowers: "In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we can give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich." ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

4 Ways Gratitude Improves Our Health

According to Harvard Health, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” If you think about it, these are things that contribute to our overall wellness.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways gratitude can improve our lives, and our wellness.

1. Gratitude can improve our physical health.

How does gratitude improve our physical health? According to her article, 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude in Psychology Today (2), Amy Morin reports that in a 2012 Study, Personality and Individual Differences, researchers found that grateful people reported feeling healthier overall and had fewer aches and pains.

Of course, this is more focused on the “normal” aches and pains we experience, not actual illness or chronic pain conditions.

Something I found interesting was that the study showed that grateful people also exercise more and are more likely to make and keep routine check-ups.

One more bonus — people who are grateful seem to sleep better. In her article, Is Gratitude Good for Your Health? (4) for The Greater Good Science Center, Summer Allen says,

People with heart failure and chronic pain who are more grateful report sleeping better, despite their condition, than less grateful patients. In a study of 401 people, 40 percent of whom had clinically impaired sleep, more grateful people reported falling asleep more quickly, sleeping longer, having better sleep quality, and staying awake more easily during the day. This study also found evidence that more grateful people sleep better because they have fewer negative thoughts and more positive ones at bedtime.

Summer Allen, The Greater Good Science Center

And let’s face it — who couldn’t use a few more ZZZZs?

2. Being grateful improves our psychological health.

Gratitude can improve our psychological health in several different ways. It can increase feelings of happiness and reduce feelings of envy, resentment, and frustration.

Surprisingly, it can also help improve our self-esteem.  This is because when we feel grateful, we don’t tend to compare ourselves to others as much. We’re also more able to appreciate and applaud the accomplishments of others.

3. Gratitude can help us make new friends.

Remember when we talked about the importance of social connection? One benefit of being grateful is that it helps us see and appreciate how those connections enrich our lives. This can help make us friendlier, more trusting, and perhaps, more sociable.(3) When we’re more open and friendly with new acquaintances, they’re more likely to want to form an ongoing relationship.

4. It can make us more resilient.

People who are more grateful tend to ‘bounce back’ more quickly from traumatic events. They are more likely to be proactive with coping mechanisms, seek support if they need it, and in the end, are more likely to become stronger through struggles.

Cultivating an ‘Attitude of Gratitude’

With all the benefits being grateful can bring us, it’s easy to see why we would want to cultivate an ‘attitude of gratitude’. Here are few things we can do to get started:

1. Say thank you.

This seems like a no-brainer, but have you ever held the door for someone at the mall and they walked right through without even acknowledging you were holding the door for them? Of course you and I would never do that, but what if we’re forgetting to say thank you for other ‘run of the mill’ things? Remembering to be grateful for the small things can help us to realize we may have more to be thankful for than we realize.

2. Choose one thing to be thankful for each day.

Even on our worst day, we can usually find one thing to be grateful for if we look for it. Being intentional about looking is the important part, and if we make it our mission to find that one thing each day, we may start to find more.

3. Keep a gratitude journal.

For many people, keeping a journal with all the things they’re grateful for helps them to feel more positive about their lives. And of course, if you already keep a prayer journal, why not have a specific section for all the things you’re grateful for? It can not only remind us to give God thanks for all those things; it can also help us see how He’s been at work in our lives, even when we didn’t realize it.

4. Count your blessings as you lie down to go to sleep.

So we already know a lot of people have trouble falling asleep. What if, instead of counting sheep, we count our blessings? Even if we’re not having trouble sleeping, reviewing our blessings at the end of each day can help us feel more grateful.

It’s not always easy to feel grateful, especially when we’re experiencing hard times, but if we can cultivate a general ‘attitude of gratitude’ we can improve our overall health and wellbeing. Doesn’t that make it worth the effort?

Blessings,

~Terri

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Sources:

(1) Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier, https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

(2) What Mentally Strong People Don’t Do – Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude,https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude

(3) Benefits of Gratitude, https://www.happierhuman.com/benefits-of-gratitude/

(4) Gratitude Is Good for Your Health, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/is_gratitude_good_for_your_health

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14 Comments

    1. That’s such a wonderful practice VJ! I think it helps us wake up in a better state of mind also. Hope you’re doing well sweet friend. Sending hugs!

    1. Thank you so much Mel – I’m so honored! I count you among my blessings. I have been enjoying life, but I had to take a computer break to try to heal a months-long problem with my elbow. I’m hoping it has had enough time to heal now. How have you been? I hope you’re feeling much better than you were. Sending hugs your way!

      1. I like when I can tell it like it is. It’s a bit crazy. My husband’s skin cancer keeps growing and they have to cut them out. I spent over 2 hours at Balance Center to see if it’s my ear is the problem. My guess is they will tell me to go to neurologist. I’ve had problems with balance since 2012 but now it’s getting dangerious with the falls are more often but it’s most hitting things, or getting up from the toilet and fall over into the floor. The other day I was watering outside flowers and lost my balance and hit the brick wall and feel into a planter and could not get out without causing more damage. I yelled for my husband and luckily he heard me from inside the house. Just trying to determine what is causing it, if they can figure out. Have a great day. 🙂

        1. Oh my goodness Mel – you’ve got a lot going on! I’m so sorry to hear you’re having such awful issues with your balance. I hope they’re able to get the cause figured out so they can give you a treatment plan that works for you. I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s skin cancer too. I hope the lesions are the less-serious kind. I’ll be praying for you both.

          1. He has Leukemia and many people with his type do get skin cancer. I’m trying not to focus on since he is early stages, it allows me to take care of my health issues. If I don’t talk with you, have a great Thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for. 🙂

  1. I recently learned a gratitude journaling exercise I can recommend. You write down three things you appreciate about a specific person with examples. Then you share your thoughts with that person. I did this as a birthday gift for a friend recently and now I appreciate her even more and she tells me she feels much better about herself and her efforts. She had forgotten about many of the things I mentioned.

    1. I love this Kit! Thanks so much for sharing it! I’ll bet that was a really special gift for your friend. I might have to steal this idea.😊 I hope you’re doing well and still creating. I have to get over to your blog and see what beautiful things you’ve made while I’ve been gone. Hugs!

      1. I felt very self conscious sharing it with her, but she said she will be reading it again and again because it was so uplifting.

  2. Such a wonderful post Terri. I think as I get older, I am more and more grateful for the people that I have around me in my life. And each and everyday, I take notice of the things that I take for granted and relish in how lucky I am to have them. A good reminder for all of us since life is so short and valuable.

    1. Thank you so much Mark! It’s wonderful that you’re intentional in looking for things to be grateful for. As you said, life is so valuable, and our time on this earth is short. It’s important to appreciate what (and whom) we have as long as we have them. Hope you and your family are doing well my friend. Blessings to you!

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