Gratitude and Emotional Benefits:
The following ideas have been edited from ideas shared by Courtney E. Ackerman, MA
Practicing gratitude is known to impact our emotions and emotional health. Evidence has shown that a regular “attitude of gratitude” can…
1. Make us happier
Simply journaling for five minutes a day about what we are grateful for can enhance our long-term happiness by over 10% (Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005)! It turns out that noticing what we already have can make us feel more positive about our lives, which makes a simple sort of sense: those who pay attention to what is good in their life instead of what is bad are more likely to feel positively about their life.
2. Increase psychological wellbeing
Researcher Chih-Che Lin (2017) found that even when controlling for personality, a high level of gratitude has a strong positive impact on psychological well being, self-esteem, and depression. Basically, this means that we can reap the best benefits of gratitude by embodying gratitude and truly living a life of gratitude, a state that we can get to through regular practice and commitment.
3. Enhance our positive emotions
Feeling grateful every day keeps the envy at bay! Research has shown that gratitude reduces envy, facilitates positive emotions, and makes us more resilient (Amin, 2014). After all, if we are grateful for what we have, what room is there for envy to sneak in?
4. Increase our self-esteem
Participants who completed a four-week gratitude contemplation program reported greater life satisfaction and self-esteem than control group participants (Rash, Matsuba, & Prkachin, 2011). Gratitude can help you feel better about your circumstances, which can lead to feeling better about yourself.
5. Keep suicidal thoughts and attempts at bay
A study on the effects of gratitude on depression, coping, and suicide showed that gratitude is a protective factor when it comes to suicidal ideation in stressed and depressed individuals (Krysinska, Lester, Lyke, & Corveleyn, 2015). Enhancing our own practice of gratitude can help protect us when we are weakest.
6. Improve our romantic relationships
A recent study found evidence that expressing gratitude to our significant others results in improved quality in the relationship (Algoe, Fredrickson, & Gable, 2013). Showing our gratitude to loved ones is a great way to make them feel good, make us feel good, and make the relationship better in general!
7. Improve our friendships
Similar to the effects of gratitude on romantic relationships, expressing gratitude to our friends can improve our friendships. Those who communicate their gratitude to their friends are more likely to work through problems and concerns with their friends and have a more positive perception of their friends (Lambert & Fincham, 2011).
8. Strengthen family relationships in times of stress
Gratitude has been found to protect children of ill parents from anxiety and depression, acting as a buffer against the internalization of symptoms (Stoeckel, Weissbrod, & Ahrens, 2015). Teenage and young adult children who are able to find the positives in their lives can more easily deal with difficult situations like serious illness in the family.
Here are a few things gratitude has been found to impact. Gratitude can…
9. Make us more optimistic
Showing our gratitude not only helps others feel more positively, it also makes us think more positively. Regular gratitude journaling has been shown to result in 5% to 15% increases in optimism (Amin, 2014), meaning that the more we think about what we are grateful for, the more we find to be grateful for!
10. Reduce impatience and improve decision-making
Those that are more grateful than others are also less likely to be impatient during economic decision-making, leading to better decisions and less pressure from the desire for short-term gratification (DeSteno, Li, Dickens, & Lerner, 2014). As anyone who has ever worked a stressful job already knows, decisions made to satisfy short-term urges rarely provide positive work results or a boost to your career!
11. Help us find meaning in our work
Those who find meaning and purpose in their work are often more effective and more fulfilled throughout their career. Gratitude is one factor that can help people find meaning in their job, along with applying their strengths, positive emotions and flow, hope, and finding a “calling” (Dik, Duffy, Allan, O’Donnell, Shim, & Steger, 2015).
12. Reduce depressive symptoms
A study on gratitude visits showed that participants experienced a 35% reduction in depressive symptoms for several weeks, while those practising gratitude journaling reported a similar reduction in depressive symptoms for as long as the journaling continued (Seligman et al., 2005). This is an amazing finding and suggests that gratitude journaling can be an effective supplement to treatment for depression.
13. Reduce your blood pressure
Patients with hypertension who “count their blessings” at least once a week experienced a significant decrease in blood pressure, resulting in better overall health (Shipon, 1977). Want a healthy heart? Count your blessings!
14. Improve your sleep
A two-week gratitude intervention increased sleep quality and reduced blood pressure in participants, leading to enhanced wellbeing (Jackowska, Brown, Ronaldson, & Steptoe, 2016). If you’re having trouble sleeping or just waking up feeling fatigued, try a quick gratitude journaling exercise before bed – it could make the difference between groggy and great in the morning!
15. Increase your frequency of exercise
It’s true: being grateful can help you get fit! It may not be a very effective “fast weight loss” plan, but it has been shown that study participants who practiced gratitude regularly for 11 weeks were more likely to exercise than those in the control group (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).
16. Improve your overall physical health
Evidence shows that the more grateful a person is the more likely he or she is to enjoy better physical health, as well as psychological health (Hill, Allemand, & Roberts, 2013). Apparently, grateful people are healthy people!
17. Help people recover from substance misuse
Researchers and addiction programs alike have noticed that gratitude can play a key role in recovery from substance misuse or abuse. It seems to help by enabling the development of strengths and other personal resources that individuals can call on in their journey towards a healthier life (Chen, 2017).
18. Enhance recovery from coronary health events
A study out of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital found that acute coronary syndrome patients experienced greater improvements in health-related quality of life and greater reductions in depression and anxiety when they approached recovery with gratitude and optimism (Millstein, Celano, Beale, Beach, Suarez, Belcher, … & Huffman, 2016).
Convinced you need to start focusing more on your blessings rather than challenges, but don’t know where to start? Consider the use of these prompts. Journaling, voicing out loud (even when alone), and sharing your discoveries are all great ways to enhance your gratefulness experience!
- I’m grateful for three things I hear:
- I’m grateful for three things I see:
- I’m grateful for three things I smell:
- I’m grateful for three things I touch/feel:
- I’m grateful for these three things I taste:
- I’m grateful for these three blue things:
- I’m grateful for these three animals/birds:
- I’m grateful for these three friends:
- I’m grateful for this recent event:
- I’m grateful for something I learned:
- I’m grateful for this fond memory:
- I’m grateful for ___________patience with me:
- I’m grateful for ____weather:
And create your own prompts!
Thank you for following along and hopefully growing in your experience of gratefulness!