While this time of year is the season of giving, it’s also the season of gratitude, the perfect time to look around and appreciate life’s abundance blessings. Certainly, gratitude for gratitude’s sake is a good thing, but if you need a bit more incentive to get your gratitude on, consider these three health benefits of gratitude, along with tips aimed at helping you harness the power of gratitude in your own daily life.
All About Gratitude
According to Harvard Medical School, “the word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). In some ways, gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.”
Indeed, the benefits of gratitude — backed by a growing body of evidence — are profound, and include the following:
1. Gratitude promotes better, longer relationships.
Writes social-personality psychologist Amie M. Gordon, Ph.D. for Psychology Today of her research examining gratitude in relationships, “we found that gratitude can help relationships thrive by promoting a cycle of generosity. That is, that one partner’s gratitude can prompt both partners to think and act in ways that help them signal gratitude to each other and promote a desire to hold onto their relationships….Moments of gratitude help people recognize the value in their partners and a valuable partner is a partner worth holding onto. We found this to be true in a number of studies – on days when people feel more appreciative of their partners than typical, they also report increased feelings of commitment to their relationships.”
(Another great way to connect with your partner? Commit to a joint fitness routine. Take a look at our lineup to find the perfect Brick Bodies class today.)
2. Gratitude supports healthy behaviors.
Having trouble getting to the gym? Having a grateful attitude may be a motivating factor. University of California Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons told WebMD: “Grateful people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health behaviors like regular exercise, a healthy diet, regular physical examinations.”
3. Gratitude boosts physical health.
You often think of gratitude in terms of its benefits for the soul, but it also has benefits for the heart — literally — according to research indicating that patients with asymptomatic heart failure had better health outcomes if they practiced gratitude. Lead author Paul J. Mills, PhD, professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California, San Diego, told the American Psychological Association: “We found that more gratitude in these patients was associated with better mood, better sleep, less fatigue and lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers related to cardiac health.”
Embracing the Many Benefits of Gratitude
Now that you understand all that gratitude can do for you, it begs the question: How can you add more gratitude to your own life?
Continues Harvard Medical School, “Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier, or thinking they can’t feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. And, although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.”
In other words, it all comes down to a premise you’ve heard since preschool: practice makes perfect.
Specifically, Harvard suggests several different techniques for cultivating gratitude, including writing thank you notes, thanking others mentally, keeping a gratitude journal, counting your blessings, praying, and meditating.
Albert Schweitzer said, “To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kindness that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.”
In doing so, you’ll not only help the people who help you feel valued and appreciated, you’ll also help yourself in the process!