Ceramic heart that reads "I am grateful" on a wooden tabletop with text overlay: How Does Gratitude Impact Wellness?

How Does Gratitude Impact Wellness?

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 — 2020 has been a tough year. When life seems to have just thrown us one curveball after another, it can be difficult to feel grateful. Being grateful 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. 

Havard Health

How Does Gratitude Help Us?

 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.

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.

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, Is Gratitude Good for Your Health?

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

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.

Gratitude can help us make new friends.

Remember the other week when we talked about the importance of 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.

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.

Hands clasped with text overlay: "The soul that gives thanks can find comfort in everything; the soul that complains can find comfort in nothing." Hannah Whitall Smith

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:

  • 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.
  • 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 than one.
  • 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. For those of us who use bullet journals, having some gratitude pages or even listing our ‘one thing’ we’re grateful for each day can help keep those positive thoughts at the forefront of our minds.
  • Count your blessings. 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’ it can impact our overall being in ways we may not even realize. Doesn’t that make it worth the effort?

How do you cultivate gratitude in your life? Please share!

Blessings,

~Terri

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Multi-colored painted pumpkin resting on ivory cloth with text overlay: Cultivating an 'attitude of gratitude'.... How Does Gratitude Impact Wellness?

Sources:

(1) https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

(2) https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude

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

(4) https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/is_gratitude_good_for_your_health

20 comments

  1. It’s amazing how what we focus on can alter our physical and mental wellbeing. Even though I know this, I find I have to remind myself time and again. Foibles of human nature, I suppose.

    1. You’re not alone VJ…. When I’m having ‘one of those days’….or weeks….or months…. It’s easy to start focusing on the wrong things and let my negative thoughts reign. I have to remind myself to shift my focus and remember just how much I have to be grateful for. I hope you have a great week. Hugs!

  2. I needed this reminder today, Terri. Instead of just dreading this afternoon’s appointment with the endodontist and a probable root canal, your post made me pause and be grateful that I live where and when I live and that I have access to good dental care. If I’d been born 100 years ago, my only options would be to either have the tooth pulled or continue to live with the pain.

    1. I’m so glad you were able to turn that dread around Janet. You make such a great point about how blessed we are to live during this time with the dental options we have today. I hope your appointment goes well and that you’re able to get some relief from the pain. Sending hugs your way sweet friend!

  3. Another great article thankyou…but alas you have me stumped!?
    With chronic pain and exhaustion from Fibromyalgia and Scheurrmans Disease in my Thoracic Spine, and the fact I can barely sleep, leaves me unable to be grateful for anything?
    I’m also having to do extra around the home at the moment, due to my wife recovering from Spinal Surgery. She’s only a few weeks post-op and unable to do much.
    All this and 3 kids aged 14, 22 & 25 who regularly throw curve balls our way with their antics. This often causes immense amounts of stress, which as you know all too well isn’t good at all for us folks with health problems?…especially for myself having Fibromyalgia, as stress is a major cause of pain for me.
    Sooooo…. it’s extremely difficult for me to find anything at all to be grateful of? And God knows I do try to!
    Much love and good luck to everyone who suffers daily with thier own health problems… I sincerely hope that some people can find some positivity in their lives.
    Thanks again Terri for all your vital work.
    Take care
    Martin x

    1. Oh Martin, I’m so sorry things are such a struggle right now. When everything converges at once, it definitely can be hard to find things to feel grateful for. Stress, pain, and exhaustion can impact how we feel about everything. For me, sometimes when I’ve had a long stretch of pain or exhaustion, it’s a matter of searching for even something tiny (like the fact that I made it through the day, or that I have a bed to sleep in) and choosing to be grateful for that. Wishing you some pain relief and your wife a speedy recovery dear friend. Blessings to you and your family.

    1. Thank you so much Wendi! In our November newsletter, I had challenged myself and anyone who wanted to join me, to name 3 things we were grateful for each night before bed. I love your idea of speaking something you’re grateful for out loud first thing in the morning even more! Thanks for sharing this – I’m going to ‘steal’ it. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving sweet friend!

      1. Thank you for your kind words Terri…….it is something that has helped me start out the day on a positive note……..mornings are usually difficult for me so it has helped!

  4. I love the idea of keeping a gratitude journal and writing down things that you’re grateful for. Remembering what we’re grateful for during such hard times makes it easier to get through.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Michelle! I agree that remembering what we are grateful for can help us through those hard times. I know when I’m having a tough time, I go thumb through my prayer journal and gratitude pages and I’m reminded that I have lots to be thankful for. Wishing you and your family a very happy Thanksgiving!

  5. I agree, Terri, this is so important! Dr. Amit Sood of the Mayo Clinic said that gratitude lengthens your telomeres which will help you live longer. Gratitude is an important practice. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for sharing the information about the telomeres Sarah! That’s really interesting. It’s amazing how much what goes on in our minds impacts our physical bodies, isn’t it? Wishing you and yours a happy Thanksgiving!

  6. Beautiful blog. Counting blessings can be all the help needed to move to a happy place. Its the little things that go unobserved that have great impact. Appreciate this🌺🌺

    1. Thank you so much Donna-Luisa! I agree with you about counting our blessings. The little things all add up to big things in the long run, don’t they? Thanks so much for stopping by. Blessings to you!

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