What is all this buzz lately about how a gratitude practice will improve your life? Isn’t it good enough to just say thank you when someone does something nice for you?
Um, no, it’s not good enough. There is quite a bit of research backing up this claim that (I say simply because it is simple) being genuinely grateful for what you have versus obsessing over what you lack can jettison your health, relationships, career, personality, and emotional well-being.
I don’t think that the average person is volitionally ungrateful. Many people may not have taken the time to focus on developing an actual gratitude practice. By practice, I mean sitting down, creating a system, and developing habits to support a gratitude practice. Establishing a routine to think about and write down your thoughts about gratitude will create tremendous shifts in your mental and physical health. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will realize the importance of a daily gratitude practice and how creating a system and habits can cause you to develop in this area.
The Truth About A Daily Gratitude Practice
The truth is numerous mental and physical health benefits from the daily practice of gratitude. The method of appreciation is the number one way to increase your overall life satisfaction.
Dr. Robert Emmons, a psychology professor from UC Davis, is one of the most often quoted experts on the study of gratitude. He and others have been conducting scientific experiments over the past two decades. Their research shows that there are quite a few advantages to regularly tapping into the tremendous power of simply counting your blessings.
Here are 12 ways a gratitude practice will improve your life:
Physical Health Benefits of a daily gratitude practice:
- Lower Blood Pressure
Studies show that regular practitioners of thankfulness have lowered blood pressure. A 16% diastolic and 10% systolic blood pressure reduction has been noted. These lower readings are seen both at rest and when stressed.
- Less Risk For Heart Disease
C-reactive protein, a marker of heart disease and cardiac inflammation, is also lower in those individuals who practice gratitude. This is an essential benefit since heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US for both sexes.
- Stronger Immune System
You will also benefit from a strengthened immune system by establishing a regular thankfulness practice. Optimism is higher when you focus on all you have vs. obsessing over all you lack. Optimism lowers the level of stress hormones such as cortisol. Stress and cortisol interfere with your immune system. Your body can increase the number of infection-fighting immune cells when stress hormones are reduced.
- Improved Sleep
Instead of counting sheep to fall asleep, you will achieve better results when you count your blessings. A regular gratitude practice will lower the incidence of insomnia and improve sleep quality. Keep in mind that poor sleep is a contributing factor to attention issues, obesity, and moodiness/relationship challenges. Improving sleep quality creates a beneficial domino effect in other areas of your life and health.
- Improved Biomarkers for Diabetes
Hemoglobin A1c, a biomarker for glucose control in the body, decreased by as much as 13% for those who engage in regular thankfulness. This could be related to the finding that dietary fat intake diminishes by as much as a quarter less when people routinely write in a gratitude journal. This means that for those with a diagnosis of diabetes, sugar control improves with less variability in the highs and lows. And if you are heading towards developing diabetes, a lowered Hemoglobin A1c indicates that the condition is running in a favorable direction.
- Brain Benefits:
A National Institute of Health (NIH) study showed that our hippocampus is activated when we feel gratitude. The hippocampus is associated mainly with memory, in particular long-term memory. In Alzheimer’s disease, the hippocampus is one of the first regions of the brain to be affected, leading to confusion and loss of memory, so commonly seen in the early stages of the disease. So boosting this vital part of our brain is a “smart” move.
Also, feelings of gratitude flood our brains with dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for a natural high sense. We can become addicted to being grateful over time as we practice daily.
Emotional Benefits of daily gratitude practice:
- Gratitude makes us Happier:
Studies have shown that a 5-minute daily gratitude practice can increase your overall well-being by 10 percent. That’s pretty impressive. The time spent may be small, but the emotional impact can set the foundation for a great day or a restful sleep at night. That’s why so many people practice gratitude in their morning or evening routines.
- Gratitude can strengthen our emotional resilience:
Being grateful reduces negative emotions like envy and jealousy. We start to focus more on what’s right versus what’s wrong; this causes us to bounce back quickly from setbacks and reduces pity parties.
- Gratitude increases optimism:
The more we practice gratitude, the more optimism increases in our life. It causes us to focus on the good things in our lives. The more we accept the good, the more we expect the future to be promising. Makes sense?
Social benefits of a daily gratitude practice:
- Gratitude causes you to become kinder and less judgmental.
Who doesn’t want to be friends with a kind, nonjudgmental person? Genuinely grateful people tend to have a lot more social capital. Let’s face it; gratitude makes you friendlier.
- Gratitude makes you less self-absorbed.
The mere thought of being grateful puts you in the frame of mind to consider others. It takes the focus off of yourself. Don’t be surprised if you start having spontaneous thoughts about how you can help others.
- Gratitude may strengthen your relationships, especially your marriage.
Couples are notorious for taking one another for granted over time. This is because of a little-known phenomenon called: hedonic adaptation, which Wikipedia defines as :
The hedonic treadmill, also known as hedonic adaptation, is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.
When we allow our endless pursuit of better, faster, newer, prettier, etc., to overwhelm and block us from appreciating what we have. (That’s sort of my definition). But you get the point.
If you take the time to build regular gratitude practices within your marriage, it might make it easier to stick it out and enjoy each other much more.
These 12 benefits are just a handful of the advantages you can enjoy by simply counting your blessings and regularly acknowledging the good in your life. I will leave you with this famous anonymous quote;
Gratitude turns what we have into enough!
Be well + prosper,
X O Elaine 🙂