Can Gratitude Improve Your Mental Health?
Updated: Dec 11, 2022
Gratitude is a huge buzzword these days- and for good reason. Focusing on gratitude can have significant impacts on one's health and wellbeing. While it may be surprising that something so simple can impact your wellbeing, research suggests that gratitude has many benefits to offer, such as reducing stress, decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improving one's overall happiness and health.
The Many Benefits of Gratitude
1. More Resilience
2. Improved Focus
3. Physical Health Benefits
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Research suggests that those who practice gratitude tend to have more resilience in the face of difficulties than those who do not. One study focused on the impacts of COVID-19 on students who reported greater pre-COVID gratitude and found that they experienced less severe depression and anxiety symptoms than their peers.
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Research suggests that practicing gratitude may have a few cognitive benefits, as well, like improving focus. One study examined students who intentionally practiced gratitude. These students reported higher levels of focus when they were in class, studying, and taking tests.
Physical Health Benefits
Those who feel grateful tend to take better care of their physical health- eating healthier, exercising more, and practicing healthier habits overall. One study found that those who participated in a gratitude intervention for two weeks showed reduced blood pressure and better quality sleep.
We all want to feel appreciated, which is why cultivating gratitude can be a great way to strengthen relationships, whether romantic, platonic, or familial. There is a multitude of research to support the claim that gratitude can strengthen relationships. One study, in particular, found that partners who expressed gratitude in their relationship were more likely to have a positive perception of their partner and felt more comfortable expressing their concerns, allowing room for the relationship to continue to grow.
Higher Levels of Happiness
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Those who practice gratitude have been found to have higher levels of happiness and optimism. This could be because the practice of gratitude shifts one's focus toward positive thoughts and feelings. The same study that found reductions in blood pressure and sleep improvements also found that individuals who participated in the two-week gratitude intervention had improved levels of hedonic well-being and optimism.
How You Can Start Practicing Gratitude in Your Life
#1 Say "Thank You" More Often
#2 Begin a Gratitude Journal
#5 Include Gratitude in Your Mornings
Say "Thank You" More Often
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Sometimes, we find ourselves taking advantage of the little things others do for us. Make an effort to feel grateful for even the littlest of things. Thank a friend for their listening ear. Extend your gratitude to the stranger who held the door for you. Say "thank you" to your parents for buying you lunch. Making a conscious effort to thank others when they do something for you will not only strengthen your interpersonal relationships, but will help you feel more grateful.
Begin a Gratitude Journal
Having a way to express your gratitude physically can be great for visualizing all the fantastic things you feel grateful for. There are tons of ways you can journal your gratitude. You can write thank you notes. You can create a list of the things you are grateful for. You can doodle the things you feel gratitude toward. The possibilities are endless. What matters most is that you take a moment to physically express your gratitude in your journal.
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Meditation has been shown to offer its own benefits, like helping reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and pain. While many people decide to focus on a singular word, their breathing, or the feelings in their body during meditation, you can also choose to focus on the things you feel grateful for.
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If you are religious in any way, expressing your gratitude through prayer can be an amazing spiritual experience. Through your prayer, you can focus on expressing gratitude for the many blessings bestowed upon your life.
Include Gratitude in Your Mornings
Whatever manner you decide to practice gratitude through, beginning your day with gratitude can help you bring a positive, thankful mindset into the rest of your day, allowing you to reap the benefits of gratitude all day long.
Final Thoughts on the Benefits of Gratitude
There are many ways one can begin cultivating a sense of gratitude in their life, and every single way comes with its own benefits. Gratitude can help you shift your focus to the positives in life, build stronger and healthier relationships, and generally become happier and healthier. Let's spend this season cultivating a stronger sense of gratitude together.
References: Jackowska, M., Brown, J., Ronaldson, A., & Steptoe, A. (2016). The impact of a brief gratitude intervention on subjective well-being, biology and sleep. Journal of Health Psychology, 21(10), 2207–2217. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105315572455
Kumar, S. A., Edwards, M. E., Grandgenett, H. M., Scherer, L. L., DiLillo, D., & Jaffe, A. E. (2022). Does Gratitude Promote Resilience During a Pandemic? An Examination of Mental Health and Positivity at the Onset of COVID-19. Journal of Happiness Studies, 23(7), 3463–3483. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-022-00554-x
Lambert, N. M., & Fincham, F. D. (2011). Expressing gratitude to a partner leads to more relationship maintenance behavior. Emotion, 11(1), 52–60. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0021557
Wilson, J. T. (2016, August). Brightening the Mind: The Impact of Practicing Gratitude on Focus and Resilience in Learning. ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/308181231_Brightening_the_Mind_The_Impact_of_Practicing_Gratitude_on_Focus_and_Resilience_in_Learning