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The Health of Gratitude

The month of November has a central focus on the holiday, Thanksgiving. Linked with this holiday is the emotion of gratitude. We want to take a closer look at this emotion and see how it is linked to better health and give you some practical tips on how to increase the size of your gratitude bucket.

The Definition of Gratitude

The emotion of gratitude is defined as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” We are familiar with the act of “thank you” to represent gratitude, but it also includes thinking on positive things that have happened during the day or your life, meditating on positive thoughts, and feeling grateful.

The Health of Gratitude

Beyond making someone feel appreciated, gratitude also has other benefits. In fact, there are physical health benefits associated with the act of gratitude. The Greater Good Science Center produced a list of benefits to gratitude.

For the individual:

  • increased happiness and positive mood
  • more satisfaction with life
  • less materialistic
  • less likely to experience burnout
  • better physical health
  • better sleep
  • less fatigue
  • lower levels of cellular inflammation
  • greater resiliency
  • encourages the development of patience, humility, and wisdom

In addition to these above benefits, psychologically, the act of gratitude has been shown to reduce toxic emotions like envy, frustration, resentment, and regret. Those who focus on gratitude have even been reported to visit the doctor less!

The Act of Gratitude

So, how do you practice gratitude in your everyday life? Here are some easy-to-do exercises to strengthen your gratitude muscles:

  • Say thank you
  • Keep a gratitude journal
  • Write handwritten thank-you notes
  • Think/meditate on positive thoughts
  • Smile!
  • Put sticky notes around your home and workspace to remind you to be grateful

By practicing gratitude, you are not only sowing positivity in someone’s heart, you are also reaping health rewards like lower blood pressure and decreased levels of stress and depression. This simple act, that we’ve all been taught since we were born (Moms always remind you to say, “thank you!”), has far-reaching benefits so start flexing your muscles of gratitude today.