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The Health Benefits of Practicing Gratitude

Monday, November 15, 2021 5:02 PM

Winter doldrums got you feeling down? Has your mental health been a little iffy lately? If you’re nodding ‘yes’ to either of these, there may be a simple way to combat these feelings.

One way to manage negativity or sadness is to think of something you’re thankful for. You may have heard of it before – it’s called practicing gratitude.

Expressing Gratitude

With Thanksgiving almost here, it’s a good time of the year for all of us to consider what we’re grateful for. But what exactly does that entail and how do you do it? 

How to Practice Gratitude: 
All in all, it’s up to you! Keeping a personal journal is one of the most popular ways. Try:
1. Recounting a favorite moment of the day.
2. Thinking of something nice you did for someone else.
3. Describing a special person in your life.

If you’re a visual person, maybe gratitude mapping is a better option. This involves creating a visual mood board of everything you’re grateful for. This is a board you can refer to somewhere in your home to remind yourself to be grateful every day.

Morning or nightly meditation can help too – it sets you up for the day with an optimistic outlook or it can be used to wind down before bed.

Another suggestion is volunteering – a more practical way of showing gratitude. Helping those in need can inspire you to reflect on your own circumstances and can aid in developing more compassion for others.

What are the Benefits of Practicing Gratitude?
There are plenty of reasons to practice gratitude, including that it can:

Help improve your mental health and well-being. Studies have found that regularly showing appreciation or consciously thinking about what you’re grateful for can ease symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Improve your relationships. Try saying “thank you” more often. Showing appreciation for others and acknowledging others’ contributions can lead to new opportunities and make others feel good, which can make you feel good. It can help you win new friends, too, according to a 2014 study published in Emotion. The study found that thanking new acquaintances makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. So next time you have the opportunity to hold the door for someone or send a quick 'thank you' note, do so!

Sleep better. Research says those who are grateful reported falling asleep quicker, sleeping longer, having better sleep quality, and staying more awake the next day.

Make you more patient. Research from Northeastern University has found that people who felt grateful for little, everyday things were more patient and better able to make sensible decisions than those who didn’t feel very gracious on a day-to-day basis.

Help improve self-care. In a study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, researchers asked people to rate their levels of gratitude, physical health, psychological health, and how likely they were to do well-being-boosting behaviors like exercise, healthy eating and going to the doctor. They found positive correlations between gratitude and each of these behaviors, suggesting that giving thanks helps people appreciate and care for their bodies.

Improve your heart health. According to a study by The American Journal of Cardiology, people feeling appreciation (an emotion related to gratitude) have improved heart rate variability and lower blood pressure, an indicator of good heart health.

Offer you happiness that lasts. From a compliment to consciously and regularly taking the time to express gratitude and thankfulness, you’re likely to see results. In a world of immediate gratification, changing your frame of mind and practicing gratitude can be a more sustainable form of happiness.

Katherine M. Hanson, PhD, Clinical Lead, Behavioral Health Services, Swedish Medical Group, approves of this messaging.