It’s easy to see the health benefits of improving our diets, incorporating an exercise routine, or getting more sleep. But what about the physical benefits of mental practices like gratitude? It turns out, gratitude is good for your health too!
Before we jump into four proven ways gratitude can better your health, let’s ask the obvious – what does it mean to “practice gratitude?”
Practicing gratitude means paying attention to the things in your life that inspire you to be grateful - make it a daily habit of recognizing those events and then share your gratitude with others or yourself through a gesture or words of thankfulness. It sounds so simple and obvious, but it’s something that most people don’t do. But when we start establishing a routine of bringing attention to the things that are good in our lives, then we start to see the impact on our overall well-being.
Seven to nine hours of sleep is the recommendation for healthy adults. This can also be a lofty goal when you account for demanding work and family schedules, so it’s even more important that whatever amount of sleep you get is of the best quality.
While practicing gratitude decreases your anxiety and stress overall (see below), it also can have a profound effect on the quality of sleep when it is practiced just before bedtime. With a practice of gratitude right before bed, you get a more restful and relaxed start to your sleep cycle. This allows you to sleep deeper and make whatever time you have count.
Decreases Anxiety and Stress
When your body is in a constant state of anxiety or stress in any amount, it takes a toll. Frequent high levels of stress can affect your coronary arteries and increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. Being in a constant elevated state can also affect your endocrine system (hormones), and your immune system - making it easier to catch a virus or infection, and harder to recover.
Practicing gratitude increases your overall mindfulness, which has a profound effect on anxiety and stress. With these levels decreased, you are less susceptible to getting sick, and can help deter long-term health problems by providing a better and calmer atmosphere for your body to thrive.
Builds Your Resilience
With a developed practice and increased mindfulness, practicing gratitude can also act as a defensive shield when things strain our mental health. Because you have developed a more accepting and positive approach to view the world through this practice, it builds your emotional resilience, and keeps your mind and body on a healthy path forward, no matter what life brings you.
Improves Your Relationships
Having healthy relationships and a strong social network can add an average of seven years to your life. Multiple studies show that expressing and practicing gratitude with your partner leads to a more positive view of the relationship and increases your likelihood to work through concerns constructively.
Making the investment to practice gratitude to improve your relationships can help you in both the short-term and long-term for your overall health and wellness.
It can seem difficult to measure the effectiveness of mindful and mental practices, but many more studies show the effect of a practice of gratitude. Not only does it help you live longer and in better health, but it will lead to a happier life as well.